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Janna Israel 

Andrew Todd Marcus 


Christine Caspar 

Carl Solander 


Mark Jarzombek, chair 
Stanford Anderson 

Dennis Adams 
Martin Bressani 
Jean-Louis Cohen 
Charles Correa 
Anndam Dutta 
Diane Ghirardo 
Ellen Dunham-Jones 
Robert Haywood 
Hasan-Uddin Khan 
Rodolphe el-Khoury 
Leo Marx 
Mary McLeod 
Vikram Prakash 
Kazys Varnelis 
Cherie Wendelken 
Gwendolyn Wright 
J. Meejjn Yoon 

This particular issue of Thresholds has been sup- 
ported in part by a grant from the Graham 
Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. 










Cover Image; Map of Europe, depicted in the form of the 
crowned Virgin by Heinnch Bunting, 1581, 
Title Page Image; Still from the video Between Prayers 
by Cagia Hadimioglu, 2002. 



thresholds 25 


Thresholds is published and distributed biannually in 
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Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Opinions in Thresholds are those of the authors alone and 
do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of 
Architecture at MIT or the editors. 

No part of Thresholds may be photocopied or distributed 
without written authorization. 

Thresholds is funded primarily by the Department of 
Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 
Alumni support also helps with publication costs. 
Individuals donating $100 or more will be recognized in the 
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See the back cover for sumbmission guidelines. 



Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

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e-mail: thresh(3) 

For selection, editorial, design, and proofreading assistance, 
thanks to: 

Randy van der Bottoms, Zeynep Celik, Leonardo Diaz- 
Borioli, Arindam Dutta, Erdem Erten, Margaret Graham, 
Cagia Hadimioglu, Aliki Hasiotis, Patrick Haughey, Zachary 
Hinchliffe, Ally Ladha, Ijlal Muzaffar, Mine Ozkar, Jorge 
Otero-Pailos, Sarah Rogers, and Katherine Wheeler Borum. 

Many thanks to Tom Fitzgerald, Eduardo Gonzales, Charles 
Leiserson, Jr., and Susan Midlarsky for their computing 

We are grateful to Nancy Jones, Melissa Kearns, and Jack 
Valleli for their continued support. 

Special thanks to Stanford Anderson and Mark Jarzombek. 

^Copyright Fall 2002 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

ISSN: 1091-711X 

Printed by Sherman Printing, Canton, Massachusetts. 
Body text set in Univers; titles set in Orator; digitally pub- 
lished using Ouark Express. 




Shaping Contestation: The Katra Mound of Mathura 


Progress and the Space of Prehistory 


An Interview Conducted by Michael Osman, Zeynep Celik, and Lucia Allais 


Mining the Lode 


Church and Community Center in Las Brisas de Santo Domingo, Chile 


Church in Andalusia 


Beltotto's Dresden: Framing the Dialectics of Porcelain 


Creating Sacred Space Outdoors: The Primitive Methodist Camp Meeting in England, 1819-1840 


The Cathedral in the Mosque and the Two Palaces: 
Additions to the Great Mosque of Cordoba and the Alhambra during the Reign of Charles V 


In the Beginning Was The House: On the Image of the Two Noble Sanctuaries of Islam 


Between Prayers: Proscribed Scenes from a Historic Monument 


Religious Mapping and the Spatiality of Difference 


From Bird-Goddesses to Jesus 2000: A Very, Very Brief History of Religion and Art 


The Spirit of the City: Transcendence and Urban Design in Postwar Berlin 


Church in Urubo, Bolivia 

Illustration Credits 94 

Contributors 95 

Call for Submissions 96 


(f* - ^ . c 

What is a Wife & what is a Harlot? What is a 
Church? & What is a Theatre? are they Two and 
not One? Can they Exist Separate? Are not 
Religion & Politics the Same Thing? Brotherhood 
is Religion. Demonstrations of Reason Dividing 
Families in Cruelty & Pride' 
— William Blake, Jerusalem 57:8-10 

The well-editorialized controversy that took place at the end 
of 1999 over the Brooklyn Museum's exhibition, 
"Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi 
Collection," centered around Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's 
attempt to cut funding to the Museum, principally due to 
the inclusion of the 1996 Chris Ofili painting. The Holy 
Virgin Mary. It depicts a black Virgin covered with glitter, 
map tacks, collages of bare backsides floating around the 
figure like putti, and the infamous elephant excrement, 
apparently ubiquitous in Zimbabwe where the artist had 
once gone for research. While the audiotape accompanying 
the exhibition cited the artist's experiments with materials 
to create an "earthy" Virgin, Giuliani referred to the show, 
and Ofili's piece in particular, as "Catholic-bashing."' 

The sensationalism of Ofili's painting was the curator's tri- 
umph, which escaped Giuliani as he threatened censorship 
during the senatorial campaign. Contrast the reaction to the 
"Sensation" exhibition with the isolated instances of "sub- 
version" in the modern religious art collections in the 
Vatican Museums. Visitors often spend little time in or 
bypass the Borgia apartments which house the modern reli- 
gious art collection. Most of the art in the collection con- 


sists of familiar religious tfiemes, scenes from the Bible, 
abstract religious symbolism, arid several portraits of popes. 

One portrait In particular, Francis Bacon's 1953 Study for a 
Pope II reconsiders Velazquez' 1650 portrait of Pope 
Innocent X as a shadowy, slouched figure with distorted 
facial features in front of a dark background. Throughout 
the 1950s, Bacon frequently reworked the Velazquez por- 
trait and revisited his own Interpretations of the seven- 
teenth-century painting. He paired the pope with a chim- 
panzee In one version; in others, the pope covers his face 
as though in shame or he screams; he always seems some- 
how prurient. 

Bacon serves as an unlikely beacon of modern religious art 
at the Vatican; he was openly homosexual, eschewed 
organized religion and he often subverted motifs of 
Christianity In his work. However, he explained his frequent 
return to the portrait as the pursuit of a formal line of 
inquiry — not as an explicit critique of Catholicism or its fig- 
urehead. ^ But it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the 
figure of the pope was related for Bacon to primordial feel- 
ings of bestial entrapment and it is hard to look at Bacon's 
Pope in the Vatican without seeing the painting as a part of 
the series. 

If Ofili's The Holy Virgin Mary found an audience in the 
unstable, but profitable ground of hype. Bacon's Pope now 
festers, largely unnoticed, as a legitimate religious art object 
by the authority of the Church. The divergent lives of the 
two paintings have been determined, for the most part, by 
exposure, but the two paintings illustrate the easy use of 
religious rhetoric for political gain, despite the relatively 
short span of the shadow cast by religion on contemporary 
secular life. The Bacon painting was a gift from the power- 
ful Fiat magnate, Gianni Agnelli; its place on the Vatican 
Museums' walls contains its power of critique. In any 
event, the pope has not threatened to cut off funding to the 
Vatican for exhibiting images which could be considered as 
partaking in "Catholic-bashing." 

This issue of Thresholds explores the way in which art, 
architecture, landscapes, and cities, real and imagined, pur- 
sue, sustain, and even elude sacred identities. As the Ofilli 
and the Bacon paintings show, a specific religious identity 
is often imposed onto a work. Many of the articles present- 
ed here address not only how religious rhetoric can distort 
the reception of an object, but how the absence of an initi- 
ating presence for faith also distorts its representation. 


Visual, metaphorical, allegorical, or spatial manifestations of 
religion and spirituality rely in some capacity on the distor- 
tion of the known and recognizable world through the inter- 
pretation of doctrine and sacred texts; the explanation of 
religious belief generally occurs within the basic contours of 
what is known, but the distortion lies in the qualification by 
the imposition of literature and doctrine. 

Inherited religious myths are themselves distorted, re-pre- 
sented anew, as in the image of Adam as a "man with 
microscopes and telescopes for eyes." Joanna Picciotto 
describes the framing of experimentalism on the cusp of the 
Enlightenment through interpretations of the book of 
Genesis. She argues that scientists and politicians envi- 
sioned themselves as inhabiting a state of purgation, phys- 
ically and intellectually laboring to achieve objectivity and 
scientific progress, paradoxically, through a return to 
Adamic innocence. While Scripture provided a framework 
for the experimental enterprise of the seventeenth-century 
scientist, the use of early Islamic texts to chart territory ren- 
dered space malleable far from contemporary understand- 
ings of accuracy. Samer Akkach shows that the pre-modern 
absence of a scientific grounding for geography often trans- 
posed the world into an icon, based on theological and reli- 
gious texts. The texts and the visual imagination served to 
mutually reinforce each other as the space between sacred 
sites collapsed based on religious continuity rather than 
geographic distance. 

The repeated use of religious rhetoric in the political realm 
also serves to distort. Claims to "promised lands," sites 
consigned by "covenant' or "divine ordinance," and colonial 
enterprises ideologically founded on conversion have been 
legitimized by the authority of religious doctrine and scrip- 
tural narratives. Daniel Monk discusses the "abstraction" of 
architecture in the conflict over land in Palestine and Israel 
to achieve political "immediacy." The designation of a site 
as holy turns it into a symbol with a willfully unstable mean- 
ing as the drive towards a religiously idealized history splits 
from the actual version of a site's history. 

Florian Urban examines how the conception of post World 
War II Berlin brought about similar abstractions in the 
attempt to regain what was believed to be the city's aura. 
He describes plans for the rebuilding of the city to under- 
stand the spiritual identification with an idealized past and 

the near impossibility of its replication. While it may be dif- 
ficult for the living city to face its history and find its spiri- 
tual center, it is, however, the aspiration of religious build- 
ing. Nasser Rabbat describes how the Mosque of the 
Prophet in Medina and the Ka'ba in Mecca serve double pur- 
poses as holy sites; they represent Koranic interpretations 
of faith and they give shape to collective memory. His iden- 
tification of a fusion between universal acts of devotion and 
evocations of private life begins to dissolve the entrenched 
demarcations of sacred and profane space in histories of 
religious sites. 

The articles here show that while the strength of religion is 
historically conditioned, the tenacity of faith in classifying 
objects and places as sacred, sacrilegious, idolatrous, pro- 
fane, didactic, etc. continues to be as much a function of 
politics and the survival mechanisms of belief systems as it 
is theologically motivated. In the case of the Ofili and Bacon 
paintings, they have been assigned to their opposing reli- 
gious posts by the government and the Church respective- 
ly. While the religious intent of the Bacon and Ofili paintings 
is not immediately apparent, Francis Bacon's ritual return to 
the pope through his deformations of Velazquez' Innocent 
X and Ofili's attempt to create of a more regionally specific 
Virgin literally distort the familiar representation of the 
image. By reconfiguring conventional religious motifs, they 
question the very nature of the iconic figures themselves. 
Thus, the branded heretic is often more accurately the artis- 
tic inquisitor, shirking the mimetic protocols of doctrinal rit- 
ual and meaning in favor of a spiritual inspiration from out- 
side the proscribed parameters of religion. 


1 . Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Coilection (New York, 
Thames and Hudson, 19981 133. 

2 Francis Bacon: Important Paintings from the Estate (New York: Tony Shafrazi 
Gallery, 1998.), 24. 


Fig 1 : Chris Otili. T/ie Holy Virgin Mary. 1996. 

Fig 2: Francis Bacon, Study for a Pope II, Collection of Modern Religious Art, 

The Vatican Museums. 

Fig. 3: Francis Bacon, Study after Velazquez Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1 953. 


"What is the meaning of red?" the blind miniaturist who'd 
drawn the horse from memory asl<ed again, 

"The meaning of color is that it is there before us and we 
see it, " said the other. "Red cannot be explained to he who 
cannot see. " 

"To deny God's existence, victims of Satan maintain that 
God is not visible to us," said the blind miniaturist who'd 
rendered the horse. 

"Yet, He appears to those who can see, " said the other 
master. "It is for this reason that the Koran states that the 
blind and the seeing are not equal. " 

My Name is Red, Orhan Pamuk 



Anyone who takes a course in the art of India will encounter 
a late first-century figure commonly known as the Katra 
Buddha, found at the Katra Mound in Mathura, about 145 
kilometers south of Delhi (Fig. 1). They will not, however, 
encounter the very long and contentious history of this 
sculpture's find spot, a history which continues to have 
intense ramifications for the present. 

The Katra Mound is located on the western side of Mathura, 
adjacent to the Bhuteshar Mound, where extensive 
Buddhist remains were excavated, and less than a kilome- 
ter from the so-called Jam Stupa site, the Kankali Tila.' 
That the Katra Mound was the site of a Buddhist monastery 
seems likely due to the several images of Buddha found 
there. 2 But the Buddhist monastery was not the only occu- 
pant of the Katra Mound. Objects with Jain and 
Brahmanical images such as a Kushan-period pedestal 
inscribed with an image of a seated Tirthankara and a Gupta 
lintel with an image of the Hindu god Vishnu were also 
found there. 3 We know that it was the location of the 
Keshavadeva temple, a Hindu temple, dismantled under 
Aurangzeb's orders and replaced with a great mosque that 
still occupies the site (Fig. 2).* 

The replacement of a temple by a mosque was clearly inten-. 
tional and sequential. But should we assume, as Alexander 
Cunningham asserts, that the Katra Mound has always 
been occupied sequentially, that is, first by Buddhists, then 
Brahmans, and finally Musalmans?^ This assertion, and oth- 
ers like it, assumes exclusive propriety of the sacred site at 
any given time, a notion that fits well with the assumptions 
of certain types of art history, committed to explaining his- 
tory in sequences. But is that notion largely a construct of 

8 ,' ASHER 

a present-day world in which territory is more often con- 
tested on religious grounds than simply shared? 

We must situate the destruction and transformation of the 
Keshavadeva temple in its historical context. The temple 
was built at the beginning of the seventeenth century by 
Fiaja Bir Singh Deo of Orchha and was supported by impe- 
rial Mughal funds. Thus, it was not a temple of great antiq- 
uity and it was specifically associated with the memory of 
a living person — still alive in 1669, when the temple was 
destroyed in retaliation for Jat uprisings in the area around 
Mathura. Mughal losses were massive and included the 
Mughal commandant of Mathura. ^ The destruction was 
thus politically, not religiously, motivated. 

Today, the site has been imbued with a new meaning. It has 
been identified as the locus of Krishna's birthplace, and a 
large temple complex has been constructed immediately 

abutting the mosque. The space is not just contested, it is 
highly charged. A temple marks what is now known as 
Krishna Janmabhumi, the site claimed as the exact location 
of his birth (Fig. 4). Another temple, still newer and even 
larger, celebrates the site of Krishna's birth, if not its pre- 
cise location. Thousands descend everyday upon the tem- 
ple compound. By contrast, however, few visitors go to the 
old mosque even though its entrance is only several hun- 
dred meters away from the entrance to the temple com- 
pound. Even though the mosque remains standing at the 
moment. Viva Hindu Parishad is intent on its demolition. 

Religious Interaction and 
Identity in Pre-Modern India 

The current tension between Hindus and Muslims in India is 
largely a result of a colonial insistence on defining individual 
identity based on religion rather than on any pre-colonial 
social phenomenon (Fig. 3). Even in recent history, the 


notion of distinct religious and ceremonial spaces was not 
entirely pertinent. For example, a report in the nineteenth- 
century edition of the Gwallor District Gazetteer states: 

There has been a custom, since the days of the 
Maratha rule, for the people of different religions 
to join in the festival celebrations of other reli- 
gions. For Instance, the Maharaja SIndhIa and his 
Sardars used to participate in the Tazia proces- 
sions during Moharram, and the Muslims took part 
In Dussehra celebrations.' 

"...At one of most sacred sites of Islam In all South Asia, 
the Dargah of Muln-ud-DIn Chlshti," an older edition of the 
Ajmer District Gazetteer notes, "the shrine of Khwaja Sahib 
is venerated and visited by Hindus as well as 
Muhammadans and other Indians irrespective of their reli- 
gion. "8 This underscores the need to consider with care the 

Bombay (Mumbal 

meaning of religious identity in South Asia. To what extent 
does the current makeup of religious identities devoid of 
communitarian dimensions overlap with the legacy of colo- 
nial reforms? Perhaps the making of this pigeonholed reli- 
gious strata can be most closely associated with the first 
all-India census in 1871, which mandated counting individ- 
uals by religious categories conceived by the British. 9 There 
are even cases in which communities identify as both 
Hindus and Muslims, for example, the Patuas of Bengal or 
the Meherata Rajputs of the Udaipur and Amjer Districts. 'O 
In cases such as these, members of the communities do not 
imagine a dual identity but rather, they simply identify with 
the larger community and its culturally instilled practices. '^ 

There are many other examples of shared religious spaces 
In India. For example, there are temples that are possibly 
Hindu at the site of Buddhist monasteries such as those 
from the monasteries of Sanchi and Nalanda. Their shared 
forms make them essentially indistinguishable, suggesting a 
common Indian visual vocabulary that extends beyond 
these two religions. For example, at Khajuraho, the Jain 
temples of Parshvanatha and Adinatha form part of the so- 
called Eastern Group. During the fifth-century Gupta 
dynasty, followers of the Hindu god Vishnu patronized a 
Buddhist monastery, Nalanda, and the Mughal emperor, 
Akbar, built a Hindu temple at Brindavan through his agent. 
Raja Man Singh. In turn. Raja Man Singh built an enormous 
mosque at Rajmahal in Bengal. Even Aurangzeb, who 
destroyed Bir Singh Deo's temple on the Katra Mound and 
replaced it with a mosque, granted extensive land to sup- 
port the operation of Hindu temples. ^^ 

The Katra Mound 

All pertinent pre-modern texts on the subject agree that 
Krishna was born in Mathura. Yet they do not specify the 
precise location of the birth in the city.'^ For this reason, all 
Mathura and its environs were considered sacred, as indi- 
cated by the impressively large circuit of pilgrimage sites 
associated with Krishna in the region. The present siting of 
the god's birthplace at the Katra Mound, therefore, does not 
seem to have any real foundation in antiquity. 

We have relatively little information about the temple built 
by Bir Singh Deo, which was demolished and replaced by 
Aurangzeb's mosque. There are no surviving inscriptions 
commemorating its foundation. In addition, no other refer- 
ences of such an association are found in the European and 
local scholarship on the subject. For example, F.S. Growse, 
the district officer of the region, recognized the importance 

10 /ASHER 

of Krishna to Mathura in his 1883 book, Mathura: A District 
/Vlemoir.''^ But when he discusses the Katra Mound and Bir 
Singh's temple that once stood there, he never identifies it 
as the site of Krishna's birth. This is not simply a sign of 
neglected or undiscovered evidence. Grovue's report pays 
considerable attention to local traditions and reflects the 
absence of a reference to any such association in them 

The French jeweler, Tavernier, does not refer to Krishna's 
birth in his detailed description of the site, wo centuries 
before Growse.^5 Tavernier saw the temple around 1650 
and describes it as the third most important temple in all 
India and one of the most sumptuous in the realm, even 
though, he reports, not many Hindus worship there. 
Tavernier notes his encounter with the priests and even 
describes viewing the temple's main image, but nowhere 
does he suggest its association with the birth of the god 
Krishna. '6 

Many historians have argued that Bir Singh's temple was 
not the first at the site. Some six hundred years later, 
Badauni, now well-known for his anti-Hindu stance, argued 

that there had been a temple on the Katra site which Sultan 
Mahmud of Ghazni destroyed when he raided Mathura in 
1017.1^ We also have Mahmud's own claim that the 
numerous idols he destroyed in a temple at Mathura yield- 
ed immense amounts of gold and jewels. ''^ 

The damage wrought by Mahmud did not last long. An 
inscription found at the Katra Mound dated 1 1 50, that is, 
133 years after the time of Mahmud of Ghazni, mentions 
the construction of a temple of Vishnu at the site, so bril- 
liantly white and large that it was said to be "touching the 
clouds. "19 The inscription makes no mention of the claim 
that this temple replaced an earlier building or that its loca- 
tion marks the birthplace of Krishna. Given the complete 
absence of such references in the various historical docu- 
ments relating to the site, it is hard to believe that this site 
was seen in 1 1 50 as Krishna's Janmabhum, or birthplace. 
What happened to this temple that necessitated its replace- 
ment by Bir Singh Deo is also quite uncertain. It is general- 
ly stated with considerable confidence that Sikander Lodi 
(r. 1489-1 517) destroyed the temple. 20 There is, however, 
no historical evidence of such a claim. We only know that 

AS HER/ 11 

LodI constructed a mosque at Mathura and persecuted sev- 
eral Hindus. We learn from the account of a Jesuit, Father 
Monserrate, present from 1580-1582 at the court of the 
Mughal Emperor Akbar, that many temples were found in 
the area and that huge crowds of pilgrims came from all 
over India to one temple in particular — one that must have 
escaped Sikander Lodi's desecration, if indeed, he did des- 
ecrate temples. 

Krishna Janmabhumi 

To what extent is a historical document of consequence to 
religious belief? The present temples comprising the site 
known as Krishna Janmabhumi at the Katra Mound shape 
belief; they do not simply mark or commemorate it (Fig. 4). 
Historically, the site has carried considerable importance. 
Various versions of the Mathura Mahatmya, especially rela- 
tively late versions of this text on Mathura's sanctity, con- 
ceptualize the Katra Mound as the center of a lotus which 
is used to map Mathura, perhaps because it is Mathura's 
highest point. ^i But no version of this text associates the 
Mound with Krishna's birthplace. This claim seems to have 
evolved, at least in part, to strengthen legal claims to the 
site. Muslims who argued that the Mound belonged to the 
mosque constructed there brought the first claim to court in 
1 878. Although we know little about the background of this 
claim, we can surmise that it was entered because the 
Muslim community began to feel that the lineage of their 
mosque was seriously contested. The verdict concluded, to 
the detriment of the Muslim community, that the Katra 
Mound had not been owned but that King Patnimal of 
Banaras had purchased it from the East India Company in 
1815. At least three subsequent court cases were filed, but 
they assigned ownership of the mosque to descendants of 
the Hindu King Patnimal. In 1944, J. K. Biria purchased the 
land from the descendants of King Patnimal with the 
express intention of building a temple, apparently to com- 
memorate the birthplace of Krishna. ^2 Almost immediately 
after the settlement of this case in 1946, a Krishna 
Janmasthan Trust was established and BirIa sold the land to 
it. Work on a temple commenced in 1953, but was con- 
cluded only recently. The temple includes an underground 
chamber immediately abutting the qibta wall of the mosque, 
believed to be the spot of Krishna's birth. The still larger 
temple at the site was completed even more recently. Its 
construction could not have commenced until the decision 
of the last court case in 1960, which stated that the 
Krishna Janmasthan Trust legally owned the property and 
that Muslims were protected for use of the mosque only on 
the occasion of Eid. Thus, a legal battle among parties who 

identified themselves in religious terms managed to trans- 
form the space of a temple into the space of a specific 
sacred locus, namely, Krishna's birthplace. 

The history of the Katra Mound as a contested space is only 
part of the issue. The parallel issue begs the question: why 
can't this space be shared by the two communities, Hindus 
and Muslims, as one hopes Jerusalem can be shared — at 
least its religious monuments if not its political status — by 
Jews, Christians, and Muslims? The answer is, at least in 
part, dependent on differing conceptions of religious space. 
For those religions formed on West Asian soil, religious 
space is generally conceived as a place where adherents 
might gather. Most sites do not have an inherent sanctity 
that goes beyond their function. 

The West Asian conception of a religious structure is, how- 
ever, quite different from the Hindu conception of a sacred 
space. A temple is believed to be god's space, not that of 
mortals. It is thus charged in ways entirely different from 
space intended to accommodate mortals. This notion can 
explain why religious tensions in Belfast, for example, might 
be effectively fought in the streets or pubs, and those in 
Jerusalem in the marketplace or on crowded buses, where- 
as in India, the temple and the mosque have become the 
objects of contestation. 

In the case of Belfast and Jerusalem, the dominance of a 
nation-state, or at least a specifically designated part of 
such a modern state, appears to be the desired goal. The 
protests are public and intended to intimidate the opposi- 
tion, a battle that is most effectively waged in public space. 
But in India, where the temple marks god's space, not that 
of his worshipers, competing shrines are imagined to dimin- 
ish the unique power of the deity and his ability to manifest 
himself. Thus in India, the lines are drawn not just on the 
basis of the religious identity, that is, along social lines, but 
on the basis of structures, believed to be necessary for 
god's presence. 

Of course, the structure stands for more than god's pres- 
ence; it is imagined as the very locus of his birth. Birth, of 
course, irretrievably alters a shared space due to the evo- 
cations of the womb, and is, therefore, an event invariably 
fraught with contestation. This notion cannot be underesti- 
mated in seeking to grasp the charged nature of birth sites 
such as Ayodhya and the Katra Mound. 23 

12 /AS HER 

Shared Space 

Are Hindus and Muslims invariably opposed? Not necessar- 
ily; their opposition depends on the currency of their identi- 
ty. There is at least one place where I have observed a very 
different interaction between Hindus and Muslims. In 
Singapore, there is a large Indian community — some 6.4% 
of the population. These Indians are mostly from South 
India or Bengal, and are both Hindu and Muslim. Indeed, 
their religious monuments are often situated side by side, 
mostly in the area called Little India, but also in other parts 
of the island nation. This proximity is not based on con- 
tested land. Rather, when the currency of identity is nation- 
al origin — is one Chinese, Malay, or Indian? — members of 
the minority group, Indian in this case, bond on the basis of 
their Indian heritage rather than on the basis of their reli- 
gious identity. By fragmenting themselves further — after 
religious allegiance — their voices would become even more 
restricted. Perhaps, this can serve as a lesson for small 
nations that fracture along religious lines. 


1 See Alexander Cunningham. Archaeological Survey of India Reports vol. I, 
reprinted (Delhi: Indoiogical Book House. 1972). plate XXXIX, for a map of 
Mathura that shows the site, there called Katara. 

2 Joanna Williams, "A Mathura Gupta Buddha Reconsidered," Lalit Kal vol. 17 
11974): 28-32. The well-known standing Buddha dated to 280 AD was found 
beside a seated Bodhisattva of the Kushana period at the Katra Mound. Joanna 
Williams has effectively shown this to be a work of the Early Gupta period. 

3 V.S. Agrawala, "Catalogue of the Mathura Museum; 111. Jama Tirthankaras 
and Other Miscellaneous Figures." Journal of the UP- Historical Society Vol. 
XXIll (19501: 46. VS. Agrawala, "Catalogue of the Mathura Museum; II. A 
Catalogue of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva in Mathura Art." Journal of the U.P. 
Historical Society Vo\. XXII (1949): 109-110. 

4 For a vitriolic diatribe against those who, like me. see the likelihood that the 
Vaishnava temples were constructed on the remains of older Buddhist and Jam 
structures, see Sita Ram Goel, Hindu Temples; What Happened to Them (New 
Delhi: Voice of India, 1993), chapter 5. This should set to rest any doubt about 
The political nature of arguments over this space. 

5 Cunningham, 235. 

6 Much of this history is summarized in Catherine Asher, Architecture of 
Mughal India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 162-164. 

7 Madhya Pradesh District Gazetteers. Gwalior (Bhopal: Government Central 
Press, 19651, 56. The passage quotes a previous edition of the Gazetteer. 

8 Rajasthan District Gazetteers, Ajmer (Jaipur: Government Central Press, 
1966), 715. The passage quotes a previous edition of the Gazetteer. 

9 Kenneth W. Jones. "Religious Identity and the Indian Census." in The Census 

in British India, edited by N. Gerald Barrier (New Delhi: Manohar, 1981), 73- 


10 Binoy Bhattacharjee. Cultural Oscillation: A Study on Patua Culture 

(Calcutta: Naya Prokash, 1980); Harjot Oberoi, Construction of Religious 

Boundaries (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1994), 10-12. 

1 1 Oberoi, 8-9. Oberoi makes the case that in the nineteenth century, a classi- 

ficatory model for religious identity that did not necessarily reflect indigenous 

reality was imposed 

12 Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society Vol. 5/4 (1957): 247-254. 

13 A.W. Entwistle, Braj: Centre of Krishna Pilgrimage (Groningen: Egbert 
Forsten, 1987). 

14 F,S. Growse, Mathura: A District Memoir (Allahabad: Northwestern 
Provinces and Oudh Government Press, 1883), 

15 Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, Travels in India, edited by V. Ball and William 
Crooke (New Delhi: Oriental Books Reprint Corp., 1976), 187, 

16 Tavernier. 187, 

17 George S.A, Ranking, ed. and trans., Muntakhb-ut-Tawarikh (Calcutta: 
Baptist Mission Press, 1898), 24-25, See also Entwistle, 125. He asserts that 
Mahmud destroyed the temple, yet he offers no historical evidence for his claim. 

18 For a translation of Mahmud's reference to the conquest of Mathura, see 
Abu al-Nasr Abd al-Jabbar, The Kitab-i-Yamini: Historical Memoirs of the Amir 
Sabaktagin, and the Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna (London: Oriental Translation 
Fund of Great Britain and Ireland, 1858). 454-456. This suggests that Mahmud 
and other Muslim invaders after him sought valuable commodities much more 
than the satisfaction of engaging in iconoclastic despoilment. In pre-modern 
warfare, one way of encouraging and paying an army was the promise of plun- 
der. In Islam — as in the other Western Asian religions, namely Christianity and 
Judaism — religious structures are gathering places; they are congregational, 
quite unlike a Hindu temple. It is likely that conquerors such as Mahmud of 
Ghazni imagined that by destroying temples they were eradicating gathering 
places for people, an institution fundamental to a social network and thus, to 
the potential resistance. 

19 Georg Buhler, "The Mathura Prasasti of the Reign of Vijayapala, Dated 
Samvat 1207." Epigraphia Indica Vol. I (1892): 287-293. 

20 Entwistle, 134-136. 

21 Ibid., 320. 

22 Ibid., 216-217. 

23 I am indebted to my colleague, Jane Blocker, for this insight. I need to pur- 
sue this point further in order to understand better the charged nature of these 
birth sites. 


Fig. 1: Buddha from the Katra Mound. Mathura. 
Fig. 2: Idgah Mosque adjacent to Krishna Janmabhumi. 
Fig. 3: Map showing Mathura and related sites. 
Fig. 4: Krishna Janmabhumi, overall view. 

ASHER/ 13 



In early modern England, experimental philosophers and the 
writers they influenced were entranced by the research 
question put forward by Francis Bacon: whether "that same 
commerce of the mind and of things. ..might by any means 
be entirely restored" to its perfect and original condition."'' 
The mortification of Copernicanism, the epiphany of a 
microworld beneath the threshold of visibility, and the res- 
urrection of the ancient atomists' distinction between pri- 
mary and secondary qualities all provided reasons for exper- 
imentalists to believe that the first man had been immune 
to perceptual limitation and rational error; in his created 
state, at least, man must have been equal to his status as 
the sovereign and designated witness of creation. 
Innocence was thus to be identified not with ignorance, but 
with insight. Understood as the subject of extreme episte- 
mological privilege, Adam was not a nostalgia-inspiring fig- 
ure, his experience of the world being utterly alien by defi- 
nition. The early modern laboratory was consecrated to the 
task of reversing the moment of transformation from the 
alien to the familiar; here, experimentalists attempted to 
break down the phenomenological boundary that separated 
corrupted humanity from created humanity. 

Experimentalists glimpsed their idealized self-image in the 
Adam who named the creatures iGenesis 2:19). Taking the 
opportunity in his History of the Royal Society to muse on 
"the first service, that Adam perform'd to his Creator, when 
he obey'd him in mustring, and naming, and looking into the 
Nature of all the Creatures," Bishop Thomas Sprat grew 
wistful: "this had bin the only Religion, if men had contin- 
ued innocent in Paradise."^ Sprat's redescription of the 
scene of naming as the first act of obedience fuses worship 
of God with the gratification of curiosity, the cognitive 
appetite once held responsible for the fall. It also dilates the 

scene of naming to encompass experimental methods: 
Adam did not just name the creatures after surveying them, 
he mustered and looked into them; through techniques like 
dissection and the use of optical instruments, the experi- 
mentalist did the same. Revealing to readers of his 
MIcrographia the "stupendious Mechanisms and con- 
trivances" that characterize "the smallest and most despi- 
cable Fly" when viewed under a microscope, Robert Hooke 
wondered, "Who knows but Adam might from some such 
contemplation, give names to all creatures?" Hooke went 
on to suggest that God has given us "a capacity, which, 
assisted with diligence and industry," might enable us to 
see what Adam saw, and to assign the same names to 
nature. 3 To claim, as Joseph Glanvill, that Adam had not 
originally needed "Galileo's tube" in order to contemplate 
distant planets, and that "he had as clear a perception of 
the earths motion, as we think we have of its quiescence" 
was clearly to celebrate contemporary discoveries." Just as 
the image of Adam as a man with microscopes and tele- 
scopes for eyes lifts technology out of history, the trans- 
formation of Eden into a specifically epistemological para- 
dise cleanses originary desire of any attachment to a privi- 
leged time or place. 

The doctrine of original sin made identification with Adam 
compulsory at the moment of the first disobedience; exper- 
imentalists grasped this compulsory identification, using the 
innocent Adam to designate the expression of human intel- 
lectual potential under ideal conditions — conditions that 
they worked to recreate. If no single individual had a claim 
on the privileged perspective of humanity's first representa- 
tive, the collective subject of the new science did. As 
experimentalists worked to transform their identification 
with Adam into a relationship of identity, the metaphorical 


link between the laboratory and paradise became mutually 
conditioning. The project of paradlsal recovery was 
enmeshed in the cognitive and physical struggles that char- 
acterize efforts to construct an objective perspective on the 
world: the impossibility of the goal guaranteed its perma- 
nence. The means and the end of paradisal recovery col- 
lapsed, and Eden came to assume the features of a work- 
ing laboratory. 

While the godly cognitive appetite was an incentive to 
industry in Adam, Eve's association with carnal appetite 
sanctioned a new etiology of the first sin as the perversion 
of the first virtue; "idle curiosity." Eve fell because she 
"neglected her daily Work" and "was at leisure," not 
because she exhibited an investigative interest in God's 
work, which would have been laudable. The fall was the 
result of an insufficiently rigorous curiosity, which tempted 
her to put her trust in "thin Apparence" and "subtle 
Fallacies." The sin represented by the forbidden fruit was 
not the desire for knowledge but the desire, in the words of 
John Milton's Eve, to "feed at once both Bodie and Mind," 
rather than working to subject the body to the demands of 
the mind. The experimentalist etiology of sin reveals inno- 
cence to be a metfiod. The regenerate intellectual laborer 
who displayed intellectual chastity or a "virgin Mind" — the 
willed innocence or objectivity of the modern scientist — 
along with a commitment to continuous labor was the prod- 
uct of this method. 5 The intellectual hunger and restless- 
ness once associated with the internalized serpent of origi- 
nal sin thus motivated a divinely sanctioned disciplinary reg- 
imen of perpetual self-exertion, a complex and torturous 
process whose aim was to recover paradise by the very 
means it was once thought to have been lost. 

actually relieved by the curse, which reassures him that he 
won't be, as he puts it, "unemployed" after his expulsion 
from the garden. When the young Robert Boyle built his first 
laboratory — literally a "workroom" — on his estate, he felt 
like he had escaped into "Elysium." Describing the bitter- 
sweet pleasures of investigation he pursued there, Boyle 
observed that the success of his "best toils" only engaged 
him in new ones. The work involved not only to regain but 
simply to inhabit paradise was perpetual. 

This georgic ideal of paradise seems a far cry from medieval 
depictions of Eden as a hortus conclusus, but it extends 
medieval treatments of the postlapsarian Adam as the first 
laborer. Medieval representations of the garden control the 
conceptual fertility of Eden as a symbolic site of human 
achievement and self-sufficiency, identifying the enclosed 
fertility of Eden with the Mother of Christ, the second 
Adam. In medieval representations of the fall and the curse, 
however, we see Adam and Eve unobscured by Marian 
camouflage. Compared to the decorous and static imagery 
of the enclosed garden, such representations seem posi- 
tively boisterous since they show Adam and Eve at work. A 
thirteenth-century English Book of Hours depicts an angel 
giving a spade and distaff to Adam and Eve; the rose win- 
dow in the north transept of the Lincoln Cathedral features 
"the angel instructing Adam and Eve in the arts of digging 
and spinning."^ These angelic overseers encourage us to 
regard the scenes they grace as independently celebratory 
images of the laborers from whom all human beings 
descended and in whom they were all represented. If these 
images look forward to Christ at all, it is by suggesting not 
a need for Christ, but a continuity with him in his kenosis 
as a homo pauperrimus. 

The identification of the innocent Adam as a physical and 
intellectual laborer promoted the notion that regenerate 
intellectual pursuits, far from being the fruits of idleness, 
were in fact work. In his treatise on paradise, which he ded- 
icated to Bacon, John Salkeld insists that innocent man 
would not have been happy living an Idle life; hence "Man 
therefore is no sooner made, then he is set to work. ..that 
hee working might keepe paradise, and paradise by the 
same worke might keep him from idleness, from sinne." It 
follows that if "cheerefully we go about our business, so 
much nearer we come to our Paradise." This laborious pro- 
gram of imitatio Adami renders work "a recreation, and 
rejoicing of the will and minde," and a means to make and 
keep the self holy.® Since "Wearisome toiles, and labours" 
turn out to be the very stuff of paradise, Milton's Adam is 

Throughout the Middle Ages, the motif of Adam at work 
evoked the equality of humanity's original state. The 
proverb "When Adam delf and Eve span, / Whare was than 
the pride of man?" blended the ontological prestige of the 
original order of creation with work, the most prominent 
feature of the fallen world. It suspends the first laborer 
between his fallen and unfallen state; the image of the first 
laborer in his humility and lack of pride merges with Adam 
in the state of blameless innocence. John Ball, one of the 
leaders of the Peasants Revolt of 1381, devoted his cele- 
brated Blackheath sermon to expounding a variant of the 
proverb; "Whanne Adam dalfe and Eve span, / Who was 
thanne a gentil man?" arguing that "all were created to be 
equal by nature la natura] from the beginning Is principio]." 
Fusing "by nature" and "from the beginning," this originary 


Uati ^ctn bo/cTi o5cr ^bcln 

1, ' 

fctect-prft vt>i5er ^vxcv n^iC^ Ji 


mode of thought performs revolutionary work, identifying 
the absolutely novel with the originary and the "real. "8 

Ball's sermon was revived in the activities of the Diggers, 
who assumed control of St. George's Hill in Surrey in 1649, 
claiming collective ownership of this land on the basis of 
the labor they had invested in it. This project of "acting with 
Plow and Spade" — creating revolution through the work of 
"delving" — depended on a collective identification with 
Adam. As their leader Gerrard Winstanley put it, "The Earth 
in the first Creation of it, was freely given to whole 
mankind, without respect of Persons;" the word of com- 
mand was imparted "to whole mankinde (not to one or a 
few single branches of mankindel to take possession." The 
"naked Spademen" who were causing such commotion, he 
explained, are Adam, who is now "risen to great strength, 
and the whole Earth is now filled with him." As Eden was 
restored on St. George's Hill, the "Lord of the Earth" was 
revealed to be all people willing to imitate the first working 
sovereign. The freedom to labor, to enjoy "the free content 
of the fruits and crops of this outward Earth, upon which 
their bodies stand: this was called The mans innocency, or 
pleasure in the Garden before the fall." Work is not the 
result of the curse but a recovery of innocence and delight. 
In digging and delving, the Diggers asked only to "quietly 
improve the. ..Common Land. ..thereby our own Land will be 
increased with all sorts of Commodities." The restoration of 
paradisal communism would generate commodities for the 
comfort of human life; as Bacon's research framework 
posited, the project of Edenic restoration coincided with a 
process of continual improvement. ^ 

Both the scientific and political revolutions of seventeenth- 
century England thus depended on a collective identification 
with the first intellectual and physical laborer. The Diggers' 
recovery of the original state of nature, like the experimen- 
talists' recovery of Adam's understanding of and control 
over the natural world, demanded the investment of human 
energy in a necessarily imperfect and accretional activity 
whose ultimate goal no individual participant would survive 
to reach. Addressing a reader who is experiencing "confu- 
sions that are in the world, or in your owne heart, concern- 
ing the first Adam," the prophet Henry Pinnell declared. 

These may goe to the plow-man for their answer 
and satisfaction: He will tell them that by the con- 
tinuall motion of his Cart and Plow wheeles, he 
hath his business done, whereas if they stood 
still, he could have no seed sowne, no crop 

reaped, nor any profit at all made of his land; yet 
in the revolution of the wheel, no spoke therein is 
alwayes fixed either upward or downward. ..the 
spirit of life within keeps this wheel in motion: 
God will have his people make a progresse; He 
will carry them from dispensation to dispensation; 
from strength to strength, and never let them 
stand still (in any forme) till they appeare in the 
perfection and beauty of the Spirit. i° 

In this tendentiously workmanlike image, the plowman get- 
ting "his business done" does the work of paradise and 
stands as an exemplum for a whole nation. The "spirit of 
life" is captured in the movement of his cart and plow; by 
perpetually returning to their starting point the wheels move 
the vehicle, and his labor, forward. Revolution originally 
meant a turning back to the first point. The term first used 
to articulate fidelity to origins had become the vocabulary of 
progress. 1 ' 

A fifteenth-century manuscript illumination examined by 
Stephen Greenblatt in Hamlet in Purgatory suggests a wider 
context for understanding the identification of Adam's labor 
power with the force of progress. ^ 2 |^ depicts a lone peas- 
ant raising a hoe above his head; he is either working the 
field or digging a grave. In either case, he is an Adamic 
"delver." Although the ground he is tilling seems solid to 
him, our cross-section view reveals it to be paper-thin. Just 
beneath the earth's surface is a cavern containing two 
chambers, hell and purgatory, into which the unsuspecting 
delver is clearly digging his way. An unsentimental sense of 
the trajectory of fallen life is here contracted into an effi- 
cient little emblem: a life of incessant work abruptly con- 
cluding in either damnation or redemption. Hell and 
Purgatory appear to be almost identical; both are filled with 
naked people undergoing torments in flames, but the pur- 
gatorial flames are graced by the presence of an angel while 
the torments of hell are presided over by a demon. When 
we look more closely, we find that the angel's gesture reca- 
pitulates the upwards slant of Adam's hoe; both contrast 
with the devil's downward gesture. The link is so unmis- 
takable that it seems like a riff on the motif of the angel 
handing Adam his working tools. A visual link is thus estab- 
lished between purgation and labor, between the trial by fire 
and the trial of work. 

How did this link survive the dissolution of purgatory? An 
early seventeenth-century book of spiritual exercises pro- 
vides a clue: it is called Adam's Garden: A Meditation of 


Thankfulnesse and Praises Unto the Lord, for the Returne 
and Restore of Adam and his Posteritie: Planted as Flowers 
in a Garden, and published by a Gentle-man, long exercised, 
and happilie trained in the schoole of God's afflictions. 
Presenting spiritual meditation and exercise as a method of 
replanting Adam's garden, it elaborates the themes of 
return and restoration in floral code. "This exercise I call 
Adams Garden," the writer explains; he asks God to "heipe 
mee, to plant, to square, and frame everie quarter. 
undergoe my calling, to digge and delve still, by penaltie 
from the first Adam."^^ This figurative delving is not just a 
penalty for sin but a way to purge oneself of it; yet the 
action of purgation is undertaken in a space very like the 
one that this action is supposed to restore. The means and 
end of return have again become blended together. Shot 
through with the purgatorial language of trial, the treatise 
weaves into its horticultural frame the conventional motifs 
of purgatory as both a fiery chamber and a school to pre- 
pare for heaven. This Adamic delver thanks God for 
"instructing and nurturing mee in thy owne most holy 
schoole of discipline" where he is "shaken with the rods of 
thy schoole and academy;" he is grateful to be made 
"sweete and acceptable, by the often scowring and purging 
of that inherent corruption."''' It is not merely that labor and 
purgation are associated: labor is purgation, and, more 
strangely, it is somehow also paradisal. Purgatorial burning 
was also woven into Winstanley's paradisal labors: mem- 
bers of the Digger collective had to cleanse themselves of 
the "corrupt bloud" which was responsible for vainglorious 
institutions like monarchy, a corruption "that runs in every 
man, and womans vaines, more or lesse, till reason the spir- 
it of burning cast him out;" the burning and casting out of 
pride, the root of all sin, was accomplished through the 
exercise of reason and through the exertion of labor, the 
innocent tilling of the earth. '5 

The disappearance of purgatory made it essential to experi- 
ence purgatory while still on earth: William Gibson's 
Election and Reprobation Scripturally and Experimentally 
Witnessed unto London warns the reader against those who 
"preach up IMPERFECTION and SIN for Term of Life," 
stressing that justification through faith does not mean that 
those who receive grace can't lose it; through "Sloth, 
Neglicence, and Unwatchfulness," people can and do so all 
the time. It is by undertaking a life-long labor that we can 
become — and keep becoming — "new creatures." "We will 
have no other opportunity to do so: neither is there any 

Purgatory (as some do falsly preach) to purge people from 
their sins after they are dead and put in their Graves;" the 
time to enter "the Heavenly Spiritual School" is now.'^ The 
dissolution of purgatory deprived sacred geography of a 
sense of progress. As Jacques le Goff and Greenblatt argue, 
heaven and hell resist the rule of narrative, but purgatory is 
a space of and for narrative. Fermenting, incomplete, 
processual, it existed to enable the story of the soul's 
progress.'^ Eden took on the newly evacuated functions of 
this space: having once simply marked a site of origin, Eden 
now began to mark a moveable terminus of human poten- 
tial. Extravagantly dilated descriptions of life in Eden 
attempted an imaginative recovery of innocent life, filling 
this once brief and thin existence with an ontological full- 
ness and a degree of dynamic activity it had never had 
before. It was through such descriptions that the concept 
of innocence itself came to accommodate process: came to 
demand, in fact, the ongoing efforts of the fallen. The 
unleashing of purgatorial process from its postmortem 
chamber resulted in the creation of a purgatorial world, from 
which the regenerate could work to extract the materials for 
a paradise of their own making. 

The banishment of purgatory was thus paradoxically an 
expansion of its functions. Greenblatt notes that in Paradise 
Lost, Milton does not feel compelled to go out of his way 
to refute the doctrine of purgatory: in Milton's epic, and the 
culture it reflects, there is "no purgatorial space at all;" per- 
haps another way to put this idea is that, in this culture, 
there is no escaping purgatory. One searches vainly in 
Milton's cosmos for a static place of rest resembling 
Dante's Heaven; even Milton's angels engage in continuous 
labor to converge more closely towards God. Salkeld made 
paradise itself into a sort of purgatory when he suggested 
that it was "not likely that man should have beene confined 
there onely, until the time of his translation into a more 
happy estate, which should have bin after his sufficient tri- 
all in the terrene of Paradise. "'^ Redescribing Eden as a 
place of trial to prepare Adam and Eve for heaven identified 
the state of innocence with the dynamic state of regenerate 
life in general. In the Edenic laboratory, the purgatorial 
nature of the trials conducted there, and in the newly dig- 
nified labors of the mind and body on the fallen world, the 
means and ends of paradisal return became entangled, and 
the very project of recovering Eden, or becoming Adam, 
became itself "paradisal" — and purgatorial. Paradise had 
begun its journey into future time. 



1 Francis Bacon, Of the Advancement and Proficience of Learning, or the 
Partitions of Sciences, interpreted by Gilbert Watts (Oxford, 1640), 1. 

2 Thomas Sprat, The History of the Royal Society of London for the Improving 
of Natural Knowledge (London, 1667), 349-50. 

3 Robert Hooke, Micrographia, or some Physiological Descriptions of Minute 
Bodies Made by Magnifying Glasses (London, 1667), 154. 

4 Joeph GlanvitI, The Vanity of Dogmatizing, or Confidence in Opinions, 
Manifested in a Discourse of the Shortness and Uncertainty of our Knov/ledge. 
and its Causes, with some Reflexions on Peripatecism and an Apology for 
Philosophy [London. 1661). 5. 

5 An Essay upon Idleness, or. Chusing to Live without Business (London, 
1707), 3; Walter Charleton, Physiologia Epicuro-Gassendo-Charltoniana: Or a 
Fabrick of Science Natural Upon the Hypothesis of Atoms (London, 1654), 6, 
2; John Milton, Paradise Lost, second edition, edited by Alastair Fowler (New 
York: Longman, 1998). IX. 779. 

6 John Salkeld, A Treatise of Paradise and the Principall Contents thereof 
(London, 1617), 143-6, 

7 Diane McCoHey. A Gust for Paradise: Milton's Eden and the Visual Arts 
(Urbana: University of Illinois, 1992). 28, 156; Jean Delumeau. A History of 
Paradise: The Garden of Eden in Myth and Tradition, translated by Matthew 
O'Connell (New York: Continuum, 1995), chapter 6. 

8 Steven Justice, Writing and Rebellion: England in 1381 (Berkeley: University 
of California), 108-1 1 ; Rodney Hilton, Bond Men Made Free: Medieval Peasant 
Movements and the English Rising of 1381 (New York. 1973). 211. 

9 A Declaration to all the Powers of England, and to all the Powers of the World, 
shewing the cause why the common people of England have begun, and gives 

consent to digge up. manure, and sowe corn upon George-Hill in Surry; by those 
that have subscribed, and thousands more that gives consent in The True 
Leveller's Standard Advanced (1 649); Gerrard Winstanley. A New Yeers Gift for 
the Parliament and Armie (London, 1650). 3. 5, 26, 28. 

10 Henry Pinnell, A Word of Prophesy, concerning the Parliament, generall. and 
the Army (Cornhill 1648). A6v, A6. 

1 1 Christopher Hill, The Intellectual Origins of the English Revolution Revisited 
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 286; Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline 
of Magic (New York: Scribner, 1971). 430. 

12 Stephen Greenblatt, Hamlet in Purgatory (Princeton: Princeton University 
Press. 2001). 51. 

1 3 Perhaps by Thomas Saville, (London, 1611), A3v, 1 . 

14 Ibid,, 14, 21-3. 

15 England's Spirit Unfolded (London. 1650). reprinted in The Intellectual 
Revolution of the Seventeenth Century, edited by Charles Webster (London: 
Routledge, 19741, 121. 

16 William Gibson. Election and Reprobation Scnpturally and Experimentally 
Witnessed unto London {London. 1678), 107-109. 

17 Jacques Le Goff, The Birth of Purgatory, translated by Arthur Goldhammer, 
(Chicago, University of Chicago. 1984). 

18 Salkeld, 33. 


Fig. 1; Initial D- Peasant (Adam) digging above scenes of Purgatory and Hell. 
Hugo Ripelin von StraRburg, Compendium Theologicae Veritati's, Book 3, Fol. 
64va. Wurzburg Universitatis Bibliothek, Cod. M. ch. F, 690. 



In his recent book. An Aesthetic Occupation: The Immediacy of 
Architecture and the Palestine Conflict {Durham: Duke University 
Press, 20021, Daniel Monk analyzes the history of the use of archi- 
tecture as a rhetorical device by the "political actors" of the 
Palestine/Israel conflict to construct political "immediacy. " In other 
words. Monk explores how monuments have been used as pivots in 
a narrative to form an understandable, yet invisible, line of cause and 
effect. Monk is the first historian to break the conflict into the con- 
stituent parts which have come to represent it. He shows that as the 
participants and observers of the conflict make use of these seem- 
ingly concrete objects for justification or make use of them for clar- 
ification, the conflict becomes— paradoxically— more abstract. The 
very nature of a conflict over territory, political autonomy, and 
national borders in what is called the "Holy Land" lends itself to the 
denial of liability and to the perpetuation of the conflict itself. As 
such, this book is the narrative of a prehistory taken for granted in 
most other histories of contested sites. In this interview with Daniel 
Monk on November 17, 2002, he discussed how, throughout the 
history of the conflict, religion has, under various pretexts, helped to 
render claims for territory and monuments irrefutable. 

Could you set your book in a critical, personal, and histori- 
ographical context for us? 

It would be fair to say that An Aestfietic Occupation is real- 
ly a repudiation of my own earlier efforts to explain the rela- 
tion between monuments and mass violence in the context 
of the Middle East conflict. In the first instance, this book 
is a history of the normative understanding of the relation 
between architecture and politics, and as such, of my own 
prior beliefs. This normative explanation is one of immedia- 
cy, of a presumption that it is possible to point to architec- 
ture and to see a political reality at work in it. ..directly and 
without mediation. More specifically, throughout the mod- 
ern history of this conflict, political actors and interpreters 
of this struggle have pointed to architecture each time they 
felt compelled to explain the cause of a mass violence they 

privilege as historically transformative. Here, architecture 
confirms two reciprocal theories of historical change, two 
seemingly opposed accounts that are. In reality, only one: 
shrines and holy sites either confirm an incited violence, or 
conversely, they ratify an organic, spontaneous, violence — 
i.e., a violence triggered by the disruption of a transitive 
relation between people and shrines. 

What I have tried to do, then, is to write a history of these 
reciprocal positions with the purpose of estranging them 
and, more importantly, with the hope of showing how the 
unitary vision of history that gives rise to them is untenable. 
Which is not to suggest that I think that monuments have 
no relation to politics; rather, I am concerned with the poli- 
tics disclosed by a struggle's repeated efforts to assert a 
relation of immediacy between architecture and history, 
since there what one stumbles over is this conflict's nor- 
malized incapacity to account for itself. To take matters 
even further: if I suggest that this normalized incapacity of 
a conflict to account for itself could be described as a "col- 
lusive communicative framework" — that is, a tacit consen- 
sus at the heart of a struggle — it is in order to ask what 
might be disclosed about history itself in a context where 
the dramaturgical organization of political experience intro- 
duces itself as an absolute, as a structural abstraction. 

Would it be possible for us, then, to define architectural 
modernism in general as a belief in immediacy? 

Maybe. In the sense that after Hegel unpacks the Pandora's 
box — that is, advances methodically through the universali- 
ty of mediation — a huge effort to re-identify the concrete 
with the immediate would be expended in subsequent 
philosophies and architectural theories. I am talking about 
the demand for a return to quasi-"phrenological" thinking. 

20 -HONK 

but In ways that are cognizant of the fact that this demand 
has Itself been subjected to philosophical reflection on Its 
historical status, that Is, to critique. This Is why I believe 
there is a significant quotient of voodoo in modernist archi- 
tecture and architectural thought: a mysticism that cannot 
be explained away — as some have done — by recourse to 
arguments for a lag between technological advances and 
social organization, or worse, to the fiction of a tectonic 
rationality emerging out of a romanticism eventually shed, 
like the hangovers of another era. 

But let me contrast European High Modernism with 
Palestine, since this pairing is actually instructive vis-a-vis 
the triumph of modernism. If one looks to the example of 
the Neue Sachlichkeit, for example. It Is evident that In 
Weimar Germany the public as a whole was relatively 
unaware of, felt indifferent to, or was downright suspicious 
of Intellectuals' claims concerning art and architecture's 
immediacy to politics. (Walter Benjamin famously described 
the Neue Sachlichkeit as a bluff, suggesting that Its claims 
to immediacy were much like the Baron Munchausen's 
assertion that he pulled himself out of the bog by his own 
hair). In this sense, high modernism is wimpy If judged by 
the criterion of Its demand for a "phrenological" formal pol- 
itics In the context of universal mediation. 

By contrast, what Is so striking about the Interpretation of 
architecture In the political history of Israel/Palestine Is that 
participants In and observers of this struggle assumed the 
monument's adequacy to history to be self-evident. Though 
cognizant of the problems of representation, Ideology, medi- 
ation. ..they nevertheless advance arguments concerning 
the nature of architecture's adequacy to politics. In their 
modernism, the proximate relation of architecture to actual- 
ity is so complete that it explains history, requiring no his- 
torical explanation. (There are really good historical reasons 
for this, as I try to show In the book. I discuss political 
actors whose intellectual projects necessarily began with 
the demystlflcatlon of religious Invocations of the "con- 
crete" in order to advance secular, political demands for 
architecture's identification with the history for which It 
nominally stands). Pointing beyond the arguments for mod- 
ernism In the Weimar claims for the concrete — which 
emerged In the political opponents "mutually-assessed 
mutual assessment" — ratifies an abstract actuality all the 
more successfully. The Interpretation of a conflict became 
a constitutive factor in its perpetuation. 

What about the Cold War? Do you see that as an analogous 

Absolutely. But the "strategic Interaction" of Cold War pol- 
itics elucidates the points about modernism I've just raised. 
In the case of the Cold War, two actors in opposition — and 
their surrogates — arrived at a common thematlzatlon of real- 
ity. This has been written about by deterrence theorists and 
political scientists like Robert Jervis In his famous The Logic 
of Images in International Relations, or Thomas Schelling in 
his Strategy of Conflict, or Waltz In his Man, the State and 
War. Viewed through the lens of Goffman's Strategic 
Interaction — anoxhet classic of the era — one could say that 
despite their important disagreements, these students of 
politics (and I think they're really theorists of gestures) 
advance a view in which states are performative entities 
and subjects are strategic beings — strategic subjects/perfor- 
mative states. But as unlikely as it may seem given the 
commonly-held view that there is a direct correlation 
between modernism and development, this kind of strategic 
Interaction was already old-hat in the 1960s In Israel and 
Palestine. In very specific ways, by 1967 It had been taken 
to two levels of abstraction higher than the classic gestural 
brinksmanship that one witnesses In U.S. /Soviet relations. 
Let me add that I'm not unaware of the fact that the stakes 
were obviously much higher In the Cuban missile crisis, for 
example, than In the build up to the war of June 1967 In 
the Middle East. But viewed in light of the categories of 
political comportment advanced by the deterrence theory of 
Its own time, what had been taking place in the Middle East 
during its modern history far exceeded the "logic" to which 
these thinkers tried to assign a name. 

This advanced strategic comportment fascinates me, and I 
guess this is why I find the question about the Cold War so 
compelling; the relation is itself the focus of one of my cur- 
rent research projects, which I think of as the continuation 
of An Aesthetic Occupation. This book Is tentatively enti- 
tled The Politics of Retrospection: Framing Middle East 
History in the Aftermath of the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War. 
It looks at the Immediate aftereffects of the hostilities of 
1967 and especially at the way political actors sought to 
identify the causes of their new historical situation during a 
period that would eventually come to be known as the "era 
of euphoria" In Israel, and the "great setback" In the Arab 
world. This Investigation builds on the methods of An 
Aesthetic Occupation by chronicling how parties to this 
conflict made sense of their opponents' attempts to make 
sense of the causes of war. However, while the first volume 
records the way political actors tried (without much suc- 

MONK,' 21 

cess) to postulate the political instrumentality of symbols 
and images in explanations of violence, this work examines 
a subsequent generation's efforts to locate the causes of 
war in the se//-image of the peoples involved. (And more 
specifically, in the self-image of political actors betrayed in 
their own assessments of their opponent's self-image). If 
this sounds abstract, it is because those involved in explain- 
ing a new political reality actually advanced an abstract pol- 
itics: from Sadiq al-'Azm's Self-Criticism After the Defeat, 
to assessments of these assessments such as Yehoshafat 
Harkabi's Arab Lessons From Their Defeat, to immanent cri- 
tiques of the Israeli meta-critical position (like the young 
Edward Said's "The Arab Portrayed"), arguments implicat- 
ing the self-image of one's opponent in the instigation of 
violence advanced a new consensus concerning the nature 
of historical change. 

How does the idea of allegory come into play In your book? 

I guess the short answer might be this; in the ways in which 
the political actors themselves debate, theorize, and 
advance arguments for the role of architecture in their own 
political reality, they reveal a constitutive relation between 
allegory and history. But this is a remarkably complex rela- 
tion. Here, allegory is not merely taken to mean the con- 
catenation of conventional symbols — the "extended sym- 
bol" that would explain, for example, what is signified by 
the features of the statue of Jose de San Martin's statue at 
the entrance to Central Park: a sword up or a sword down, 
a horse rearing or with its head bent down, the hero touch- 
ing his cap, and looking to the east or west, etc. Rather, 
what I'm exploring in An Aesthetic Occupation is a relation 
to allegory far less estranged from collective experience 
than the one I've just described; the way in which the polit- 
ical actors whose adventures I tell understand and advance 
their own understanding of their own historical circum- 
stances discloses itself as having a concrete relationship to 
time that is the same as the one we have come to describe 
in allegory. In a tradition of thinking originating in Georg 
Lukacs and elaborated in Walter Benjamin's philosophy of 
history that sees allegory first, as a charnell-house of long- 
rotted inferiorities, and then, as the via negativa to revolu- 
tionary experience, it is a cipher language of history. ("From 
the standpoint of death, the product of the corpse is life," 
Benjamin instructs the reader of his Trauerspiel study). 

In the conclusion of your book you make a strong claim 
about ethics. Could you expand upon It? 

First, let me say that the conclusion of An Aesthetic 
Occupation is a work of self-criticism. (I should add that this 

is a critique that is much harsher than any of the reviews of 
this book I've read to date). But I am not in any sense offer- 
ing this gesture of self-criticism as a pragmatic model for an 
ethics. This is not a book that suggests that the identifica- 
tion of a problem is a step in its resolution. Instead, like oth- 
ers before me, I'm suggesting that critique is its own end. 
And critique of a particular kind: a critique that is inherent- 
ly negative in its orientation, in the sense that it displays 
"intransigence towards all reification" — as Adorno once 
described the task of his own negative dialectics. Such 
intransigence does not only extend to assertions that histo- 
ry fulfills itself in stone, but also to claims concerning the 
successful and complete demystification of such assertions. 
The ethical imperative I raise lies precisely in An Aesthetic 
Occupation's own unfinished business. If in this work I sug- 
gest that the claim of architecture's political immediacy sig- 
nals the violent success of an impossible understanding of 
history-as-reconciled-existence, then far more important 
would be to show that the possibility of, and the legitimate 
demand for, a reconciled existence survives in our failure to 
articulate the impossibility of reconciliation in this one. 

Could you speak a little about the structure of your book? 
Why do you move from "stone," to "tile," to "paper," and 
to "celluloid?" Are you suggesting "the march of the world 

Well, I am suggesting a kind of progression, but I am not in 
any sense suggesting that it coincides with the "march of 
the world spirit." If I trace how modes of historical self- 
presentation advanced towards greater complexity of 
abstraction, it is not with the aim of implying a drive 
towards ever greater universality. This is the case in the 
Phenomenology, which culminates with Spirit's self-cog- 
nizance as Absolute Knowing, or in subsequent materialist 
versions that posited the completion of thought in the pro- 
letariat's self-cognizance as the subject/object of History. 
The dynamic I present corresponds with something closer 
to an effort to "keep up appearances" in the face of repeat- 
ed challenges to those whose political task is to "keep up 
appearances". ..i.e., to articulate the relation between 
"facts" on the ground and facts "on the ground." In histor- 
ical terms, "stone," "tile," "paper," and so on are just short- 
hand terms for that process. 

The book begins with a history of the argument that holy 
sites are instantiations of revelation. The portion called 
"stone" documents how this position was eclipsed by 
another that emerged precisely in expressions of skepticism 
concerning the first. In the critique of the adequacy of mon- 

22 .'MONK 

uments to history advanced in religious devotion, a belief in 
the adequacy of architecture to history was sustained all 
along. the assertion that in their "untruth" as authentic 
holy sites they are true instantiations of secular realpolitik. 
There are corresponding claims in "Tile" — that the true state 
of affairs could be discerned by the way one's opponents 
used architecture— that is, treated it as the covering image 
for their own political imperatives. So, we pass from a mag- 
ical theory of adequation to an operative one. After the riots 
that took place in Palestine in 1929, this tenuous, but nor- 
mative understanding of the relation of architecture to poli- 
tics also collapsed. Now, parties to this conflict would 
argue that history presents itself directly in the untruth of 
one's opponents' claims for the uses of monuments. This is 
why, in the section entitled "Paper," I present the history of 
the arguments advanced by representatives for the Zionist 
and Palestinian leadership before a Parliamentary commis- 
sion of inquiry on the causes of the violence of 1929. By 
this point, parties to this conflict resort to a remarkable 
argument: "history inheres in the way that that guy says I 
use monuments." They point to actual pictures of shrines in 
order to make this case. If I suggest that this is a movement 
towards abstraction, it is because I think it is incumbent 
upon us to ask: what is the character of a history in which 
political leaders, arguing for the very possibility of their con- 
stituents' existence in a country, find themselves obligated 
to theorize about what pictures mean? How do they find 
themselves resorting to a kind of art criticism? While many 
political histories have normalized this question into oblivion 
by treating the images as "propaganda" — that is, as merely 
contingent upon a political imperative taking place less 
abstractly elsewhere — I focus instead on the fact that 
nobody has been able to articulate what those larger politi- 
cal imperatives are without resorting to these precise claims 
for the immediacy of architecture to history — this time, as 
something utterly contingent upon a politics it is supposed 
to name. 

What can you tell us about your current work? How does it 
relate to the themes found in this book? 

An Aesthetic Occupation connects with a crucial moment in 
the history of the gesture. I wasn't completely aware of this 
as I was writing it. In another of the projects I'm currently 
developing, I am trying to present the history of the gesture 
in a novel way informed by what I've learned so far: that is, 
tracing the history of the gesture by examining the episte- 
mological frameworks in which it presented itself as an 
urgent problem. I start with Winkelmann and Lessing who 
were asking themselves whether some poor sculpture was 

suffering its pain in calm repose or not, since for them the 
possibility of a modern theory of expression would be con- 
tingent upon the answer. Following romantic theories of 
sentimentality to the origins of modern psychology, I con- 
nect these (by virtue of their subsequent rejection of psy- 
chological "parallelism") to the sociology of Herbert Mead 
and his notion of "symbolic interaction." It is a short step 
from here to the modern politics of the Cold War and to the 
issues we discussed a little while ago, by which political 
actors expended huge intellectual efforts to arrive at a reli- 
able understanding of gesture. Combining Mead's notion of 
a "conversation of gestures" with Charles Sanders Peirce's 
pragmaticist understanding of language, political scientists 
would attempt to find a way to arrive at a "taxonomy" 
capable of distinguishing between "phony" and "real" ges- 
tures (they called the former signals and the latter indexes). 
The critique of this kind of "taxonomy" was advanced by 
Erving Goffman, who, in treating the dramaturgy of such 
gestures , rejected the implicit claims of symbolic interac- 
tions concerning the "uses" of images in political experi- 
ence. He suggested instead that the belief in uses was itself 
a gesture of agency. In An Aesthetic Occupation, I did not 
know that I was looking at a part of this history, but I'm 
quite eager to pursue it. 

So what relationships have you been finding between aes- 
thetics and politics in your current research? 

For the last number of years, I've been looking at the aes- 
thetics implicit in practical political life, particularly the the- 
ories of figuration presupposed in modern politics. When I 
open a work of political science, I often discover that impor- 
tant and credible theories of politics hold presumptions con- 
cerning representation that were abandoned at the end of 
the eighteenth century by credible students of aesthetics. I 
don't say this to indict them, but to suggest that I've been 
trying to understand the epistemological horizons of politi- 
cal actors and their interpreters. At the same time, as cir- 
cumstances have led me to delve deeply into politics and 
political thought, I have the uncomfortable sense that the 
humanities have all too often relied on vulgar reductions of 
politics, and more specifically, on conceptions of power as 
an undifferentiated absolute. I am increasingly more curious 
and skeptical about this tendency, as it has been advanced 
in recent and current arguments about the way culture- 
visual, material, etc.— constitutes a nexus of power. My 
concern is that this identification of politics-qua-power may 
signal, more than anything else, a way in which we pay trib- 
ute to our own renunzciation and even extract a certain fris- 
son from It. 

HONK/ 23 







^Estate of Robert Smithson/Llcensed by VAGA, New York, 

2^ /JONES 


The tongue 

Did burst 

Into a Bloody Word.... 

From a ruptured 

Blood vessel 

Comes a prayer 

— Robert Smithson, "From the City," unpublished 
poem, ca. 1960^ 

A degraded paradise is perhaps worse than a 
degraded hell. America abounds in banal heavens, 
in vapid "happy-hunting grounds," and in "natu- 
ral" hells like Death Valley. ..or The Devil's 
Playground.... The abysmal problem of gardens 
somehow involves a fall from somewhere or 
something. The certainty of the absolute garden 
will never be regained. 

— Robert Smithson, footnote to "A Sedimentation 
of the Mind: Earth Projects," 1968 [RS 1131 

Sifting through Smithson, one navigates stratigraphic lay- 
ers. Not the least of which are the data files accumulating 
over the years: his essays, the unpublished/now published 
poetry, the reviews of other artists' works, the interviews. 
Then, there are the chunkier layers: the collages, the crum- 
pled sheets documenting unrealized projects, the slide- 
shows in their battered cardboard mounts, the stashes of 
Instamatic prints, the brittle photostats. The built earth- 
works are just part of the palimpsest: crusting up again out 
of the Great Salt Lake, or dropping back under the flow; 
looming over the sand quarry at Sonsbeek or plowed under 
by the administrators at Kent State. Although privileged by 
art history, their stratigraphy is just part of the story; they 
are crumbling, gone, or stubbornly resistant to the miner's 
pick. The Smithson lode, like breccia, is an aggregate of the 
organic and the inorganic, compounded materials dragged 

from different times and places, annealed under intense 
pressure. But, in his own words, 

no materials are solid, they all contain caverns and 
fissures.... Words and rocks contain a language 
that follows a syntax of splits and ruptures. Look 
at any word long enough and you will see it open 
up into a series of faults, into a terrain of particles 
each containing its own void. 2 |RS 107] 

The fissures are crucial to our project of finding the spiritu- 
al Smithson. That author-function will never be found 
"intact," but always in the interstices of the aggregate, 
threaded by gnosis and larded with doubt. 

The archaeological and geological practices engaging the 
Smithson reader/viewer are entirely appropriate, replicating 
the activities of an artist/theorist for whom text was mate- 
rial to be heaped, piled, accumulated, and pushed around. 
"Earthwords," Smithson called Edgar Allan Poe's prescient 
evocation of earthworks in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon 
Pym of Nantucket, 1850: 

Nothing worth mentioning occurred during the 
next twenty-four hours, except that, in examining 
the ground to the eastward third chasm, we found 
two triangular holes of great depth, and also with 
black granite sides. ^ IRS 1081 

Words were as material as earth, and dirt as fluidly con- 
structed as discourse. Regardless of what they signified for 
Poe, triangular holes were one of the options for artists 
Walter De Maria, Michael Heizer, Robert Morris, and others 
whose work Smithson illustrated and discussed. But 
Smithson declined this ancient iconic form and the cubic 

JONES/ 25 

obsessions of Minimalism (the cube a vestige of late-mod- 
ernism). For Smithson, it was the spiral, the labyrinth, and 
the vortex that figured his desire. 

...unlike those monuments of the past which 
evolved out of the matrix of beliefs and religions 
of their time, the Spiral Jetty came into existence 
as the individual vision of a single artist.'* 

Such market-driven fantasies of authorial integrity are 
posthumous, imposed on a more complex author-function 
emerging specifically as "Smithson" from the permeation of 
individual intention by dispersed, communal, or aggregative 
authorial functions. Larger social units fueled and produced 
the mature work we nominate as "Smithsons:" road trips, 
filmmaking, sample collecting, "jobbing out," delegated 
photography, and even virtuosic bulldozer crews and aerial 
surveys. Smithson was a culminating author, but only in the 
Benjaminian sense of an author-as-producer, in this case, a 
productive theorist of experience: 

In June 1968, my wife Nancy, Virginia Dwan, 
Dan Graham, and I visited the slate quarries in 
Bangor-Ben Argyl, Pennsylvania. Banks of sus- 
pended slate hung over a greenish-blue pond at 
the bottom of a deep quarry. All boundaries and 
distinctions lost their meaning in this ocean of 
slate and collapsed all notions of gestalt unity. 
The present fell forward and backward into a 
tumult of "de-differentiation," to use Anton 
Ehrenzweig's word for entropy.... How can one 
contain this "oceanic" site?... The container is in 
a sense a fragment itself, something that could be 
called a three-dimensional map. Without appeal to 
"gestalts" or "anti-form," it actually exists as a 
fragment of a greater fragmentation. It is a three- 
dimensional perspective that has broken away 
from the whole, while containing the lack of its 
own containment. IRS 1 10-1 1 1 1 

Here, Smithson's spiral moved out, away from the ompha- 
los of the sacrosanct studio, away from the city-system, 
and, referentially, away from the gallery's white cube. The 
Non-sites, in the gallery, and their dialectic with the Site, at 
an absent, industrially disrupted periphery, held the art 
world system tenuously in place, but only as a relay for 
experience and concept, part of the "back-and-forth" that 
interested Smithson. 

The site is a place where a piece should be but 
isn't. IRS 2501 

As the idea for the Sprial Jetty look form, the art world sys- 
tem became a discursive construct: "I'm not really discon- 
tent. I'm just interested in exploring the apparatus I'm being 
threaded through. "^ The spiral was the figure for that 
threading: the spiraling of celluloid through the projector, 
the spiraling of salt crystals in their molecular lattice, the 
oral and aural "spiral ear" referenced in Brancusi's sketch of 
James Joyce. 

In my argument, the spirals began sensationally for 
Smithson as stigmata — v\iormho\es between Enlightenment 
rationality and the ancient symbolism of blood and passion, 
violently shuttling the Catholic boy from his New Jersey 
pew to the "Gothic" sensibilities of a million backyards. He 
drew spirals on the feet of Christ, latticed like a spider's 
web. These early drawings, exhibited in Smithson's first 
one-man show in Rome, showed the spiral tunneling 
inward, downward, into the body of the Christ, down to the 
bedrock of crucifixion, uncertain and endlessly incompre- 

Art was never objectified during the Ages of 
Faith; art was an "act" of worship. Icons would 
never be "looked" at like a tourist looks at an 
ob/et d'a/T... Jackson Pollock and other American 
"action" painters have restored something of the 
ritual life of art.... The rituals that Pollock discov- 
ered in the Hopi religion and Navajo sand-painting 
exist also in the outskirts of New York City. 
Penitential fires are built on Halloween in the dim 
regions of the suburbs, burning inside the rotting 
Jack-0'Lantern with glowing hollow eyes, nose, 
and mouth. 6 [RS 321 and 3231 

As he did for so many other American artists, Pollock 
seemed to show the way. "A chance comparison between 
Georges Rouault and Pollock indicates 'inner' and 'outer' 
obsessions between the European and the American." IRS 
321] But the path between the spiral of the stigmata and 
the spiral of the Jetty was itself elliptical, vortextual, and 
full of self-fashioning moves. ^ Smithson's trip to Rome for 
his first one-man show in 1961 was more determinative. It 
turned the screw of a developing crystalline structure and 
initiated the tropism toward geometry that would bracket 
the oceanic and the spiritual (for a while): 

At that time I really wasn't interested in doing 
abstractions. I was actually interested in religion, 
you know, and archetypal things, I guess inter- 
ested in Europe.... William Burroughs' Nal<ed 

26 /JONES 

^Estate of Robert Smithson/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY 

JONES/ 27 

Lunch,... Mallarme and Gustave Moreau and that 
kind of thing.... It all seemed to coincide in a curi- 
ous kind of way. IRS 282] 

The "facade of Catholicism" that obsessed Smithson at the 
time wound itself into a picture of decadent sexuality and 
confronted him In Rome with Its excessive display. The 
facade parted to reveal baroque layers of corruption, 
labyrinthine catacombs, and perverse desires. The spiral 
became a worm within the body of the church; "a snake 
chewing a penis" was Its homoerotic symptom. ^ Thus, a 
dialectic formed between erotica and geometry character- 
ized by Smithson's Immediate post-Rome production, a set 
of exercises he described as "sort of like cartouches." Here, 
homoeroticism was banished to the peripheries or bracket- 
ed by geometric borders. In one telling cartouche, the 
periphery is polymorphously sexuallzed, the center an erot- 
ic vortex. Only the boundary is "pure," a crystalline set of 
nested hexagons. Their segments are taken in sequence to 
form a triangulated spiral that appears again in the first 
"earthwork," an aerial sculpture commissioned for the run- 
way bordering the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. 

So my trip to Rome was sort of an encounter with 
European history as a nightmare.... And the real 
breakthrough came once I was able to overcome 
this lurking pagan religious anthropomorphism. I 
was able to get into crystalline structures in terms 
of structures of matter and that sort of thing.... I 
was doing crystalline type work and my early 
interest in geology and earth sciences began to 
assert Itself over the whole cultural overlay of 
Europe. I had gotten that out of my system. (RS 
283, 284, and 2861 

Through the crystalline, the spiral could reassert itself. No 
longer scandalously homoerotic, no longer simply eschato- 
logical, no longer merely geometric, it knit these strata 
together. Like magma flowing through the interstices of a 
compacted situation, it crystallized as a boundary that 
incorporated the fragments of its own violent passage 
through the organic. 

I mean I never really could believe In any kind of 
redemptive situation. I was fascinated with 
Gnostic heresies, Manicheism, [sic\ and the dual- 
istic heresies of the East.... I guess there was a 
tug of war going on between the organic and the 
crystalline.... Actually, I think they kind of met — a 
kind of dialectic occurred later on, so both areas 
were resolved. IRS 286 and 290] 

Smithson's early, unpublished poems are heart-rending — 
remarkably, they remained unpublished, even through the 
celebrity of the Spiral Jetty and its sudden precipitate, glob- 
al fame. "Joining with the myth of the machine," he penned 
around 1960, "The rebel / Expects to be damned by rust" — 
dust unto dust became rust unto rust as his spiral took the 
binary of nature/technology and pulverized it. 

You know, one pebble moving one foot in two 
million years is enough action to keep me really 
excited. But some of us have to simulate 
upheaval, step up the action. Sometimes we have 
to call on Bacchus. Excess. Madness. The End of 
the World. Mass Carnage. Falling Empires. (RS 

Entropy became the engine of this final figuration, the archi- 
tect of a final spiraling path. Its slow arc looked like Nature. 
Was this the solution, a postmodern pastoral? 

Nature is an infinite sphere, whose center is 
everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. 
[Pascal, as quoted in RS 271 

The solar system's slow swan song, the "heat death" of the 
universe — an obsession of science in the 1960s, was only 
one part of the spiral. The interstitial spirituality of Smithson 
was equally dependent on the figure of technology — stud- 
ded with rust and mechanical "dinosaurs," but sutured into 
the very order of Nature. Technology, the artist claimed, 
was part of "Human Nature." Thus, part of the dialectic's 
resolution lay in the deep logic of the pastoral, in which the 
flight from the marketplace is always necessarily indexed to 
the market's genres and structures of value. The pastoral, 
in turn, was inflated by a post-Apollo techno-scientific 
gigantism, the sudden vision of an Earth suspended with its 
veil of atmosphere in an inky infinite. In bounded chaos, 
massive scale, and geological timeframes, Smithson found 
the right optic from which to view the institutionalized reli- 
gion that "haunted" — as he described it — his early work. 

The refuse between mind and matter is a mine of 
information. IRS 107] 

Mining the lode will continue to churn the strata, yielding 
further Smithsons from the spirals of compacted discourse. 
Many of those nuggets can be turned to reveal a spiritual 

28 /JONES 


1 Robert Smilhson, "From the Cilv," ca, 1960, published posthumously in 
Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings, edited by Jack Flam (Berkeley: 
University of California Press, 19961. 317. Hereinafter RS, 

2 Smithson, "A Sedimentation of the Mind: Earth Projects," Art forum 
(September 1968). 

3 Edgar Allan Poe. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. 1850, 
Chapter XXIII, as quoted by Smithson in "Sedimentation," 

4 "Biographical Note," unsigned (but probably by the artist's widow, earthwork 
artist Nancy Holt), in Robert Smithson, The Writings of Robert Smithson, edit- 
ed by Nancy Holt, with an introduction by Philip Leider (New York: New York 
University Press, 1979), 5. 

5 Bruce Kurtz. "Conversation with Robert Smithson on April 22, 1972," The 
Fox II (19751 in RS 262. 

6 Smithson, "The Iconography of Desolation," c. 1962, remained unpublished 
until long after his death. The first scholar to gain access to these unpublished 
materials was Eugenie Tsai. who published this essay in Robert Smithson 
Unearthed: Drawings, Collages. Writings (New York: Columbia University Press, 
19911, 61-68. 

7 This trajectory is laid out more fully in Caroline Jones, Machine in the Studio: 

Constructing the Postwar American Artist (Chicago: University of Chicago 
Press, 1996), and most recently, m Caroline Jones, "Preconscious/Posthumous 
Smithson: The Ambiguous Status of Art and Artist in the Postmodern Frame," 
Res 41 (Spring 20021. 

8 Smithson references the Michelangelesque figure in the posthumously pub- 
lished "What Really Spoils Michelangelo's Sculpture," Tsai, 1991, 73. The fig- 
ure IS borrowed again in Smithson's cartouche drawing. Untitled (Second-Stage 
Injector). 1963. See the essay "Preconscious/ Posthumous Smithson," supra, 
The penis/snake spiral is taken from Michelangelo's skewering of his enemies in 
the papal curia. The figure of Minos, Prince of Hades, in the lower right corner 
of The Last Judgment, apparently bore an uncanny resemblance to 
Michelangelo's enemy Biagio da Cesena, the master of ceremonies in the papal 
court. Da Cesena had called the top half of the unfinished Judgment a "stufa 
d'ignudi" when it was shown to intimates in 1 540. 


Frg. 1: Robert Smithson. A Surd View for An Afternoor}, 1970. 
Fig. 2: Robert Smithson, Feet of Christ, 1961 

JONES/ 29 





The temple is both subjective and objective. Its use is ulti- 
mately internal to the visitor and its program is effective 
silently and personally. The temple is also a dynamic repre- 
sentation of society, not for aesthetic or historical reasons, 
but rather, it acts as a mirror to the shifting attitudes of a 
culture in a much more accurate and immediate manner 
than other building types. 

Though the tectonic elements of the Church at Las Brisas 
are critical to understanding its realization, the design is ulti- 
mately an investigation of the program — it seeks to clarify 
the essence of a meditative act. The clarification here devel- 

oped from a consideration of how elemental forces physi- 
cally manifest, as one hopes to experience spiritual forces 
through the act of meditation. 

The church in Las Brisas de Santo Domingo moderates 
these physical experiences to facilitate meditation. It is near 
a forest of boldo trees, a native species with leaves tradi- 
tionally used for making a purifying, healing potion. It lies in 
the path of both the sun and the wind. These were tecton- 
ic decisions which allow the visitor to feel the life of the 
building and the larger set of relationships of which they are 
a part. 


The meditative aspects of the church were further clarified 
through light — not through the manipulation of light, but 
through the exploration of a specific kind of light. The inten- 
tion was to harness a quality of light — like a memory and 
the identification of memory — in order to create an environ- 
ment conducive to reflection. Likewise, the collaboration 
with Kurt Wagner from Bose allowed for an investigation of 
sound as a bendable force, focused in the service of the 
program. When people and music fill the space, the building 
works as a musical instrument to enhance the experience 
rather than dictate it. 

The building process itself brought an illumination and dis- 
covery only realizable through the act of construction, when 
the forces of the bulding began to reveal themselves. In this 
particular case, the crew embraced the spirit of the process. 
Careful examination of craftsmanship became superfluous, 
and the catalyst to action, "I don't need to watch you, God 
watches you," seems to have taken on a collective under- 

Ultimately, the goal was not to design, make, and construct 
forms for their own sake, but rather to ensure that every 
element of the building was "working." The whole building 
then becomes activated and no element is on "vacation." 
The austerity of the elements in action complements rather 
than competes with the nature of the meditative experi- 

To connect ideas and experiences, one must allow the 
architectural elements to begin a dialogue. It is not what we 
project or plan, but what we become — what we actually do 
and make — and what we may ultimately learn from the dia- 
logue that arises. The idea of meditation was here all the 
time — a meditation through physics to open a way to God, 
a happy God. The building is less about the architect than 
what is best for the building as a work for God. This is a 
spiritual attitude, but not a religious one. It allows the ulti- 
mate meditative question to arise: "What kind of spirit 
moves us?" 

32 ,/DOnEYKO 


k^^ _ '^fiii 1 


. >7 

•■ -l} 






^^Wffl* f 



The church is located on the outskirts of Cordoba in Spain 
on an anonymous avenue with newly constructed 
Mediterranean-style houses on one side, and a shopping 
center on the other. Although the city has a rich cultural his- 
tory, the site does not reveal it. Rather than orient the 
church along the conventional east-west axis, we turned 
the structure away from the built environment, and orient- 

ed the altar and pulpit towards the south. The solitary view 
from the church surveys a distant mountain range to the 
north, passing over the immediate surroundings. The exte- 
rior of the church emphasizes solidity, a defensive hermet- 
ic seal against a setting without memorable references. This 
solidity is achieved through the construction of pure vol- 



A large rectangular podium signifies the earth. It was con- 
ceived as a base for the fall of a shadow, that of the church 
Itself. The planes of the podium and of the church are held 
apart by a lightweight, almost imperceptible structure; a 
strip of light connects the two volumes and a shadow set- 
tles between them. 

Light, shadow, and color model the interior space of the 
church. The upper plane of the podium is carved by the 
light, and the space contained within the "floating" walls is 
shaped by these three elements. The space is thus held 
within the shadow of the strong light of the Andalusian sun. 
A low light filters in from between the two volumes of 
space, illuminating the interior evenly. The interior wall is 
punctuated with colored light. Openings on the west wall 
are painted red; on the east, blue; and the southern aper- 
tures, where the altar is located, remain unpainted to retain 
the natural yellow or white light. These colors will accentu- 
ate the natural tones of the atmosphere at those hours 
when light passes through them, following the passage of 
the sun. 

The color will play a role in the liturgy as well. On the east- 
ern end of the southern wall, behind the altar, a niche holds 
the figure of the Virgin of Hope. She is draped in green light, 
the liturgical color of hope, and faces the morning sun. This 
green results from a mixture of the blue from the east and 
the natural yellow from the south and will change in hue 
throughout the day. In the early morning, the niche will 
become deep blue; as the sun moves throughout the day, 
the yellow-white will intensify. A tabernacle situated on the 
western corner will change from a yellow-orange in the 
morning to red as the afternoon progresses. 

The celebrant is seated on the podium alongside the altar, 
or place of sacrifice, and the pulpit. The visual focus of the 
service then becomes the natural light. Spaces carved into 
the podium plane provide for specific sacraments; the wor- 
shippers assemble on a lower plane to give emphasis to the 

In order to support the large interior space designed to hold 
about four hundred people, we constructed the main sanc- 

<UCUlii fio?^ ^u 

tuary with a prefabricated concrete "waffle-like" space- 
frame structure. The frame lines the eastern and western 
interior walls and the deep units of the frame provide 
peripheral spaces of occupation; the frame also modulates 
the interior shadows, fracturing the light from above and 
below, casting shadows that move over the course of the 

Our proposal for the Church in Andalusia emphasizes the 
expression of limits and the breaking of boundaries that 
form these limits through light. The church is divided into 
spaces of transition where we are able to pass from one 
spatial reality to another. This space of shade in Andalusia 
provides a refuge from the Mediterranean sun, yet registers 
the passing of time and the changes of the day for those 
inhabiting the shadows in quietude and prayer. 





In 1978, pieces from Dresden's famous art and porcelain 
collections went on exhibition in Washington D.C., New 
York, and San FranciscoJ The backdrop of the exhibition 
was, of course, the devastating fire bombing of Dresden by 
the Allies in World War II, and the subsequent consolidation 
of East Germany into a socialist state. In all candor, 
Manfred Bachmann, Director of the State Art Collections in 
Dresden, wrote in the accompanying catalogue that the 
Dresden collections were "in the hands of the working 
class" whose "socially-oriented policies... have created new 
museums in the framework of the reconstructed cultural 
centers of the city on the Elbe. "2 The Splendors of Dresden, 
as the exhibition was called, was heavily funded by the IBM 
Corporation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and 
was thus a victory for the champions of detente. Though 
Bachmann meant for the "reconstructed cultural centers" to 
point to the much-anticipated transformation of Dresden 
into a modernized city, he also referred to the attempt to 
rebuild the heavily-damaged Zwinger and Semper Galleries. 
In fact, one of the purposes of the exhibition was to draw 
attention to the desires of both the East and West for a re- 
energized museum culture. For this reason, the exhibition 
was staged as part of the opening celebration of I.M. Pel's 
new East Wing of the National Gallery. To make the theme 
of renewal even stronger, the exhibition included a true-to- 
scale reconstruction of the interior of one of Dresden's most 
noted exhibition spaces, the "Green Vault," a fortified, six- 
teenth-century treasure room where Dresden's former 
monarchical rulers housed the most precious pieces of their 
porcelain collection. In reality, the Green Vault, which had 
been heavily damaged during World War II, was not in use 
and the plans for its restoration were sketchy at best. It 
was therefore not without some degree of irony that the 
simulated version of what Dresdeners might very much 

have wanted to see restored was on display in a building 
that was far more expressive of modernist ideals than what 
was then being built in East Germany. 

The East German curators who authored the catalogue 
availed themselves of this opportunity to construct within 
the framework of the show a condensed history lesson 
about the city of Dresden, a lesson designed as a play on 
the theme of the East-West exchange. Its articulation began 
with the first piece described in the catalogue in an essay 
by Joachim Menzhausen, director of the Green Vault: 
Bernard Bellotto's Dresden from tfie Right Bank of the Elbe, 
1748 (Fig. 2). Painted, according to Menzhausen, in a "sci- 
entifically exact" manner, it shows the city before the 
"bombardment. "3 The bombardment to which the catalogue 
refers was, however, not that which took place in 1945, 
but rather the cannonade of 1 760 that took place during the 
Seven Years' War (1756-1763). This war, a world war in 
Its own right, involved all the major European powers and 
had even spilled over into India and the Americas. Though 
this paper cannot explore the history of this complicated 
war, suffice it to say that in 1760, Dresden experienced 
what local historians still call its "first destruction." To 
show the devastation, the East German curators pointed to 
another painting by Bellotto, his Kreuzkirche (Church of the 
Holy Cross, 1765) (Fig. 1|. The catalogue's author noted 
that the church's ruins, "like an open corpse, offer a strong 
image of the desolation wrought by war.""* 

Menzhausen was assuming that sophisticated readers 
would see the parallel between the Kreuzkirche and the 
Frauenkirche. Following the bombardment of 1945 by the 
Allied forces, the Frauenkirche was left in a state of ruin 
uncannily similar to that of the near-by Kreuzkirche as 


Bellotto had painted it. The two buildings represented noth- 
ing less than the dynamic of Dresden's dialectical fate. The 
Kreuzkirche signified the end of the monarchical world, the 
Frauenkirche, the end of the bourgeois world. But if the first 
step of the Dialectic can now be demonstrated only with 
the help of art history and with the help of an image of "for- 
tunate perfection," as Bellotto's painting was described by 
Menzhausen, the result of the second step of the Dialectic, 
namely the destruction of the Frauenkirche, had been 
planned as a permanent visual element in the urban land- 
scape. One should "never lose sight of this apocalyptic pic- 
ture of our city," read a socialist brochure published just 
after the war.^ The ruins remained until the mid-1990s, 
when reconstruction of the Frauenkirche was begun. Until 
then, it was an anti-memorial to fascism and, by the 1970s, 
to the cruelty of the allied attack. 

view, a mere "romantic chinoisene" of buildings. 6 The use 
of these words by the director of the Green Vault to 
describe Dresden's much admired urban silhouette was par- 
ticularly biting since socialists, one must recall, saw chi- 
noiserie as a manifestation of the fetishized and alienated 
life-style of the upper classes. Dresden had been a world 
center for porcelain products, playful figurines, made in 
near-by Meissen; they were meant to be collected only 
(Figs. 3 & 4). Indeed, Dresden's famous ruler, Augustus the 
Strong (1670-1733), had assembled a collection of over 
24,000 pieces of Chinese and Japanese porcelain for his 
"Japanese Palace" (Fig. 5). Bellotto's Dresden from the 
Right Bank of the Elbe, seen in this context, thus shows us 
more than just a beautiful city. It is a painting of architec- 
turally scaled chinoiserie, meaning that it was, in the final 
analysis, as Menzhausen notes, a "symbol for an end."' 

To flesh out the logic of Dresden's dialectically charged 
fate, Menzhausen hinted that the initial attack in 1760 was 
not unexpected, given that the city had become, in his 

In positing the fate of Dresden's destruction within the fab- 
ric of its monarchical history, the curators were generously 
deflecting attention from the question of the Allies' guilt for 


bombing Dresden. In exchange, the West would have to 
accept the proposition that Dresden's post-war socialist 
identity was not something imposed on it by the Russians, 
but was a logical and internal resolution of its fate. Its 
destruction was, in a sense, self-proclaimed. This meant 
that by going to the exhibition and walking through the 
space of the simulated "Green Vault," Westeners were, in 
essence, revisiting the pre-dialectical moment of Dresden's 

But in the process of developing this piece of revisionist 
diplomacy, the exhibition designers laid an elegant trap for 
their Western audience, for chinoiserie had certainly not lost 

its potency. The Westerners, therefore, were unknowingly, 
taking in the sweet poison of the Vault's display, and, in 
admiring it, became unwittingly complicit in their own undo- 

The exhibition thus worked on two levels, one abstract and 
timeless, the other, real and in the "here and now." Both 
positioned the narrative of modernity and its "arrival" 
through the sliding gradations of a precisely calibrated spa- 
tio-temporal logic that moved not only between the Green 
Vault and the East Wing, but also between the tropes of 
death and destruction. It began with the lively little figurines 
that had once so effectively foreshadowed Dresden's doom 
but that now, dusted off, were harbingers of an even 
grander purpose, a purpose that could be easily disguised 
under the pretext of an East-West dialogue. The paintings 
by Bellotto that framed the entire operation, the "before" 
and the "after" images of the first instantiation of Dresden's 
Dialectic, were part of the coded prediction of the West's 
own demise and potential transcendence. Though the poi- 
son and the warning labels were in plain view, they could 
not be deciphered. 

However, it was probably all a game which only the Eastern 
curators could really enjoy. But it was also, no doubt, mixed 
with sadness, as the Dresden curators, with deteriorating 
state funding, were neither able to rebuild their Vault to its 
former splendor nor build a new, modern museum similar to 
the East Wing. The Western exhibition viewers had both the 
funding and the building which was why the best that the 
East German curators could get out of their "Green Vault" 
was a trompe-l'oei/ of the historical Dialectic. 



1 The Splendor of Dresden: Five Centunes of Art Collecting, an Exhibition from 
the German Democratic Republic was displayed at the National Gallery in 
Washington from June 1 to September 4, 1978. More than 700 paintings, 
drawings, prints, porcelains, scientific instruments, arms and armor, bronzes, 
and jeweled objects were on view. Sent from the collections of Dresden, the 
exhibit documented the history of art collecting by the rulers of Saxony over a 
BOO-year period. It was organized by the National Gallery in Washington D.C.. 
the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 
and It was curated by American and German experts, in particular by Olga 
Raggio, chairman of the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts 
at the Metropolitan Museum of Art 

2 Manfred Bachmann, "Statement," The Splendor of Dresden: Five Centuries of 
Art Collecting (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1978), 7. Bachmann 
was the Director General of the State Art Collections in Dresden. 

3 Joachim Menzhausen, "Five Centunes of Art Collecting in Dresden," The 
Splendor of Dresden, 24. Menzhausen was the director of the Green Vault in 
Dresden. The Venetian Bernardo Bellotto (1721-80) was the nephew and pupil 
of the famous Canaletto. In 1747, he left Venice for Dresden where he was 
appointed court painter to Frederick Augustus II of Saxony. Bellotto moved to 
Warsaw in 1767. His best work was done in Dresden where he painted numer- 
ous scenes of the city. 

4 Angelo Walther, The Splendor of Dresden, 70. 

5 "Was fanden wir?" Kultureller Neuaufbau Dresdens 1 (Dresden: Stadt 
Dresden, n.d.l, 3. 

6 Menzhausen, The Splendor of Dresden. 24. 

7 Ibid. 


From the catalogue for the exhibition, The Splendor of Dresden: Five Centuries 
of Art Collecting: An Exhibition from the State Art Collections of Dresden (New 
York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1978). 

Fig. 1 : Bernard Bellotto, Rums of the Church of the Holy Cross. 1 765, cat. no, 

Fig, 2: Bernard Bellotto, Dresden from the Right Bank of the Elbe, 1748, cat. 
no. 5. 

Fig. 3: Mother Monkey with her Young, Meissen, c. 1730, cat. no. 480, 
Fig, 4: Teapot and Two Teabowls with Saucers, with strapwork painted in sil- 
ver. Meissen, c. 1715-1720, cat, no, 473, 
Fig, 5, Lady with Bird on a Perch, China, Te-hua, c. 1675-1725, cat. no. 362. 




ENGLAND, 1819-1840* 

It was the Loughborough, England Methodist circuit camp 
meeting of July 30, 1820, and George Jarrat was describ- 
ing a battle between two "mighty powers" for Primitive 
Methodist Magazine. ^ Jarrat was struck by the similarity of 
the scene to a military operation. The officers in the field 
had been unable to call the troops to regroup. Not even the 
sound of a horn had restored order. The camp meeting had 
begun as usual; several short sermons followed by the 
dividing of the crowd into "praying companies," in which 
seekers of salvation could find encouragement, and perhaps 
liberty, from their miserable spiritual condition. But when it 
came time for the prayer companies to turn their attention 
once more to the preachers, the leaders discovered that nei- 
ther human voice nor trumpet could disengage the smaller 

In one of the prayer companies, the cries of the 
penitents were so affecting to the praying souls 
that to attempt to persuade either the one or the 
other to attend preaching was unavailing. At 
length, we succeeded in removing the souls in dis- 
tress, to the distance of about one hundred yards 
from the preaching stand; and great numbers 
repaired with them. 2 

When Jarrat left the campground at eight o'clock that 
evening, "many were still in distress. "3 Multiple preaching 
stands had been set up, each stand boasting five sermons 
in both the morning and the afternoon and two in the 
evening. With the accompanying prayer services, it was dif- 
ficult to know just how many people received salvation that 
day, although Jarrat estimated that at least seven thousand 
were present.* 

An offshoot of Wesleyan Methodism, the Primitive 
Methodists argued that the camp meeting — a one-day out- 
door revival service — was an effective means of bringing 
the Gospel to as many people as possible. The camp meet- 
ing was invented on the American frontier, where it lasted 
several days and was associated with enthusiasm and dis- 
order. English camp meetings lasted only one day instead of 
several days and emphasized prayer rather than preaching. 
The Primitive Methodists' camp meetings in open fields 
made it possible for the Movement to claim sacred space, 
as the Methodists had been excluded from conventional 
sacred space, first by the established Church, as had all 
Methodists, and then by the Wesleyan Methodist adminis- 
tration which sought a higher socio-political status. 

For the Primitive Methodists, camp meetings became the 
characteristic means of transmitting the substance of evan- 
gelical religion, though regular chapel services became part 
of their ministry. Known as "Ranters," the Primitive 
Methodists became a sect and later a denomination. They 
were "not only small but also homogeneous," drawing their 
audiences primarily, but by no means exclusively, from the 
poor, mostly farm laborers between 1820 and 1840 — the 
"heroic age" of Primitive Methodist missionary expansion in 
England. s Class differences and the stresses of industrial- 
ization certainly contributed to the popularity of the 
Primitive Methodists. National and international tensions 
encouraged thousands of English men and women to seek 
out the emotional and spiritual release of the camp meet- 
ings. Gradually, however. Primitive Methodism surrendered 
the enthusiasm of the spiritual battlefield for more staid and 
socially acceptable forms of public worship. By the mid- 
nineteenth century. Primitive Methodists were part of a 
chapel-based movement, and by the early twentieth centu- 


ry, they had reconciled with their Wesleyan forebears. The 
transition from sect to denomination and from worshipping 
out-of-doors to Indoors suggests a familiar pattern of move- 
ment from exclusion to inclusion and from the social and 
religious margins to the mainstream. 

The first formal attempt to marginalize the Primitive 
Methodists occurred in 1807, when the Wesleyan confer- 
ence forbade camp meetings: 

Q. What Is the judgment of the Conference con- 
cerning what are called camp-meetings? 

A. It IS our judgment, that even supposing such 
meetings to be allowable In America, they are 
highly Improper in England, and likely to be pro- 
ductive of considerable mischief and we disclaim 
all connexion with them. 6 

The power and efficacy of the camp meetings were clearly 
evident to Hugh Bourne, however, and his enthusiasm for 
them cost him his place in the old order. In June 1808, 
Bourne was removed from membership In the Methodist 
church for preaching to large crowds at organized camp 
meetings. Hugh and his brother, James, were convinced 
that worship in the open air was "both methodistical and 
scriptural," and thus, solidly within the biblical and 
Wesleyan traditions.^ Hugh Bourne argued that camp meet- 
ings had an ameliorating effect when scheduled to coincide 
with parish wakes — bawdy, secular feasts held annually In 
some communities. He believed that more souls were con- 
verted at camp meetings than through all the regular work 
done on any particular preaching circuit In any given year. 
His plan was to limit the length of sermons, using the 
preaching event as a prelude to a period of intense group 
prayer. He was sure that organizing camp meetings around 
a variety of activities — preaching, praying, reading from tes- 
timonies, etc. — enabled people "to continue the active wor- 
ship of God, for a course of time, with energy and effect. "8 

In the summer of 1 808, after the judgment prohibiting camp 
meetings, there was an outdoor gathering at Norton, which 
lasted several days. It was so successful that Bourne felt, 
"the English camp-meetings were established on an Immov- 
able foundation, and could never afterwards be shaken. "9 
Bourne's movement took on the name Primitive Methodist 
because "It had been directed towards the revival of primi- 
tive or early Methodism by a return to the spirit and meth- 
ods, especially in the matter of out-door preaching, of 

Wesley and his coadjutors."'"' The name was officially 
adopted In 1812. By 1820, the Primitives claimed 7,842 
members, but by 1850, they boasted 102,222 members, 
nearly one-third that of the Wesleyans' 334,458.'^ 

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Movement In 
England, adopted "field preaching" as a form of mass evan- 
gelism as early as 1 739, when he discovered that his col- 
league, George Whitefield, was experiencing great success 
holding services in the open air. Wesley was a product of 
the rigid and orderly Church of England, an ordained priest 
and the son and grandson of clergymen. Conducting public 
worship anywhere but In churches and cathedrals dedicat- 
ed to such activity seemed almost indecent to him, but 
Wesley found he could also attract crowds out-of-doors, 
and field preaching became characteristic of first-generation 
Methodism. Field preaching brought the Gospel message to 
the masses, who would not or could not attend holy serv- 
ices in the established church. Just as Wesley himself was 
shut out of many English pulpits because of his enthusiasm, 
a rigid, formal, and politically-minded church that seemed to 
care little for the working class alienated much of the pop- 
ulation of England. 12 

Decades later, as the Primitive Methodist ranks swelled 
after a revived emphasis on field preaching and camp meet- 
ings, England still struggled with class differences and 
social discontent. Food shortages, postwar unemployment, 
depressed wages, and soaring prices applied increasing 
pressure to those least able to deal with it. The painfully 
slow democratization process urged people to strive beyond 
their social status while constant reminders of its inevitabil- 
ity lingered. The presence of cholera In Leeds in 1832 may 
have contributed to a tremendous increase in Primitive 
Methodist membership there, and the disease was probably 
responsible for adding 250 members to both the Hull and 
North Shields circuits in just one quarter. The Primitive 
Methodists in Liverpool gained over nine thousand members 
in 1849 — the largest annual Increase In Primitive Methodist 
history. It is no coincidence that Leeds also had high mor- 
tality rates due to cholera by the end of the 1840s. ^^ 

While the appeal of the Primitive Methodists was not limit- 
ed to the poor and the working classes, the leadership of 
the original Wesleyan connection seemed to go out of its 
way to exclude camp meetings and their adherents from 
nineteenth-century mainstream Methodism. Jabez Bunting, 
who emerged as the leader of Wesleyan Methodism from 
the vacuum left by Wesley's death in 1791, tried to make 

hk ,'COONEY 

the growing denomination more respectable. Bunting, who 
was solidly behind the conference's condemnation of camp 
meetings, sought to relieve the political and financial pres- 
sure that the connection was feeling from all sides. On the 
one hand, groups like the Methodists were frequently 
accused of being radicals and even subversives during 
England's hostilities with France. As a religious movement 
outside the established Church of England, they were in 
danger of being shut down. On the other hand, money 
raised within the connection for missionary enterprises had 
been spent on keeping the Methodist Movement solvent in 
England. Bunting came to "put his faith in a vision of 
Methodism as a federation of chapels, serviced by a well- 
instructed ministry and paid for by a pious and respectable 
laity. "I'' 

As John Wesley was excluded from the establishment's 
churches for his brand of enthusiasm, paradoxically, so 
were Bourne and the Primitive Methodists alienated and 
excluded by the attitudes and actions of the Wesleyan lead- 
ership. While Bunting and others toiled to raise Methodism 
to a level of financial privilege and social acceptability which 
would ensure their vision of ministry, so did Bourne and his 
associates find themselves creating their own sacred 
spaces among the masses — the camp meeting. 

Because the ordering of English society had long depended 
on the squire-parson alliance, another characteristic of 
Bourne's camp meetings should not escape notice: primitive 
Methodist camp meetings emphasized ministry by the laity. 
Although the preachers were most likely licensed clergy, 
the great praying companies were made up of volunteer 
laity. By 1820, strict guidelines for the organization and 
implementation of the praying companies had been devel- 
oped. Camp meeting conductors were charged to see that 
preaching did not infringe on praying time when the con- 
gregation could participate and minister. The prayer time 
was a chance for those who had been "wounded," as Jarrat 
observed, to be "saved" through preaching and so carried 
with it significant importance. For a few years between 
1816 and 1818, some Primitive Methodists experimented 
with making preaching the focus of the camp meetings as 
in America. The results were disastrous and demoralizing. 
The praying companies were restored to prominence, and 
the lay character of the Primitive Methodist ministry was re- 
enforced. The established clergy had no part in these meet- 
ings; the laity found and retained the spiritual role.'^ 

Other features of camp meetings in England involved the 
laity's claim of control and space. One of these features 
was the love feast, a testimonial meeting held in the 
evening following the day's activities. In addition, ritual 
marching marked the beginning of the camp meeting. The 
meetings started with a march through the nearest village 
or town. They moved from the staging area to the camp- 
ground while drawing attention to the meeting itself. The 
marching often began as early as six o'clock in the morning 
and included singing and preaching along the way. In 1836, 
a group in Stockport split and marched from opposite ends 
of the town toward the central marketplace's The singing 
and preaching drew both supporters and opposition, but the 
general effect was more like a circus parade. The Primitive 
Methodists, excluded from the established church and shut 
out of the Wesleyan connection, found a way to storm 
English society in a direct and physical manner, "through 
the street, as a little army sounding for battle. "i' 

The vigor of the Primitive Methodist camp meetings did not 
last, however. Signs of change were evident by 1840, a 
decade before Bourne's death, when the Primitive 
Metliodist Magazine began to print articles about "Salvation 
meetings," two-hour meetings on Sunday nights that 
resembled camp meetings but could be held indoors and 
during the winter. '8 After 1860, camp meetings "con- 
tributed more to nostalgia than revivalism," and by 1900, 
the Primitive Methodists had moved to a chapel-based min- 
istry. '9 The low costs of Primitive Methodism — few debt- 
ridden chapels and meager preachers' salaries — which may 
have contributed to its popularity among the lower classes, 
were gradually undone by the church's institutional drift 
from its identity as a sect to its status as a denomination. 
Chapel-building may indeed have drained the Primitive 
Methodists' spiritual, as well as their financial resources. 2° 

Primitive Methodists adopted the camp meeting from the 
American Methodists who found it to be a useful tool for 
evangelizing the frontier. But the Primitive Methodists were 
uncomfortable with the raucous character of the American 
version, which lasted several days and emphasized fervent 
evangelical preaching, as correspondent Joshua Marsden 
recounted for his English readers: 

At six o'clock in the evening the horn summons to 
preaching, after which, though in no unregulated 
form, all the above means continue until morning; 
so that go to whatever part of the camp you 
please, some are engaged in them; yea, and dur- 

cooNEY/ as 

ing whatever part of the night you awake, the 
wilderness is vocal with praise. 21 

In America, the Primitive Methodists benefited from expan- 
sion west into millions of acres of uncharted space; they 
claimed sacred space in concordance with the expansion 
movement, which particularly suited the camp meetings. 
However, the democratization process was well underway 
by the time camp meetings became popular in America. The 
voluntary ministering was as evident in America as in 
England, but in America, participation in all aspects of the 
services was voluntary, and by the early nineteenth centu- 
ry, personal expressions of spirituality were the norm. 
Unlike the Wesleyan connection in England, mainstream 
American Methodists embraced camp meetings. Camp 
meetings became standard in American Methodism, but did 
not become the chief hallmark of the Movement as it did 
with Primitive Methodism in England. 22 There were other 

First, [American] Methodism's most explosive 
period of growth came before the advent of the 
camp meeting; the Movement's basic structure 
was already well established before camp meet- 
ings emerged at the turn of the century. Second, 
large and enthusiastic meetings were a familiar 
and consistent component of the Methodist 
Movement throughout the new nation, not only 
on the frontier. 23 

Hugh Bourne encouraged "conversation preaching," or per- 
sonal witnessing, as another way in which the laity could 
engage in spreading the Gospel message. Most scholars of 
the Wesleyan heritage today recognize that one-on-one con- 
tact and ministry within small groups did as much or more 
to fuel the Methodist Movement as the large-scale opera- 
tions that were the camp meetings. "Contrary to some 
impressions," writes Richard Heitzenrater, "most of the 
occasions when persons 'received' remission of sins or 
were 'comforted' were those small group meetings, not the 
large open-air preaching services. "2* 

A familiar pattern emerged, however, as the Primitive 
Methodists enjoyed several decades of phenomenal growth 
followed by a plateau and decline as they moved away from 
the very customs which defined their earliest efforts. Nearly 
twenty years after Jarrat described the Loughborough camp 
meeting with militaristic overtones in the Primitive 
IVIethodist Magazine, another observer of the camp meet- 
ings in 1839, described them as possessing "a regularity 

which. ..could not have been accomplished, except by mili- 
tary practice. "25 Regardless of whether the camp meetings 
were primarily responsible for the growth of the Primitive 
Methodists, they served as the battlefield on which many 
Primitive Methodists fought. The recurring use of the bat- 
tlefield analogy to describe the camp meetings evoked 
images of vitality, but also drew into focus the tension of 
the outsider. Open-air preaching was the sacred space they 
claimed when they could not afford to construct chapels 
and believed that the mother church had abandoned one of 
the most sacred spaces of all — "God's own chapel" — and 
with it a considerable portion of the English populace. 

* For Shelby. 


1 George Jarrat. "Loughborough Circuit Camp Meeting," Primitive Methodist 
Magazine (18201: 241. 

2 Ibid. 

3 Ibid, 241-242. A mourner was a person convicted of a sin who had not yet 
received assurance of salvation. "When sinners, who were listening to the 
word, felt the arrows of the Almighty stick fast within them, they repaired to 
the multitude who were praying with the penitents. And so great an effect 
attended the preaching, and the other praying services, that mourners contin- 
ued to flock to the praying multitude, in regular succession, as wounded men 
to an hospital; where numbers found the heating balm of the Redeemer's blood 
to heal their souls." 

4 Ibid. 

5 James Obelkevich. Religion and Rural Society: South Lindsey (1825-187BI 
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), 220. 

6 "History of the Primitive Methodists," Primitive Methodist Magazine (1821): 

7 Ibid., 52, 76. 

8 Ibid. 

9 Ibrd., 54. 

10 Joseph Ritson, The Romance of Primitive Methodism (London; Primitive 
Methodist Publishing House. 1909), 96. 

1 1 Robert Currie, Alan Gilbert, and Lee Horsley, Churches and Churchgoers: 
Patterns of Church Growth in the British Isles Since 1700 (Oxford; Clarendon 
Press, 1977), 140-141. 

1 2 Richard P. Heitzenrater, Wesley and the People Called Methodists (Nashville: 
Abingdon Press, 1995), 98. 

13 Julia Stewart Werner, The Primitive Methodist Connexion: Its Background 
and Early History (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 19841, 17, 85. 

14 David Hempton, The Religion of the People: Methodism and Popular Religion 
c. r 750-/500 (London: Routledge, 1996), 7, 107, 

1 5 "On the Progress of Tunstall Circuit," Primitive Methodist Magazine (August 

i|6 /COONEY 

1820; Intended as a Substitute for October, 1819): 228-229. 

16 J. Bowes. "Work of God in the Keigfiley Circuit," The Primitive Methodist 
Magazine (1827): 29. Samuel Smitfi, "Stockport Camp Meeting," The Primitive 
Methodist Magazine. New Senes (1836): 427-428. 

17 Ibid. 

18 "Salvation Meetings," The Primitive Methodist Magazine. New Series 
(1839): 357-358. 

19 Obelkevich. 253. 

20 Ibid.. 222. 

21 Josfiua Marsden. The Narrative of a Mission to Nova Scotia. New Brunsv\/ick 
(1816): Quoted in "On the Mode of Conducting the Worship at the Camp- 
Meetings in America, &c.," The Primitive Methodist Magazine (July 1, 1819): 

22 Obelkevich, 227. In spite of the dramatic accounts of English camp meet- 
ings and the enthusiasm of the Primitive Methodist leadership for the technique. 
Obelkevich plays down the significance of the camp meetings. "Despite the 
notoriety of the camp meeting, it was at most, an occasional event and could 
not have been the principal evangelistic technique even in the 1820s- By the 
1850s, a single camp meeting was regularly scheduled for each village society 
every year." 

23 John H. Wigger, Talking Heaven by Storm: Methodism and the Rise of 
Popular Christianity in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998). 96. 

24 Heitzenrater, 100. 

25 S. Smith, J. Lawley, and J, Cheetham, "Manchester Circuit General Camp 
Meeting," The Primitive Methodist Magazine (1839): 359. 








The conquest of al-Andalus, the Islamic-ruled portion of the 
Iberian Peninsula, by the forces of the northern kingdom of 
Castile began In the thirteenth century after nearly eight 
hundred years of Islamic political dominance over the 
Peninsula. Following the Castlllan conquest, or reconquista, 
much of the architecture of al-Andalus, religious as well as 
secular, was appropriated and used with few changes by 
new Christian patrons. This paper focuses on sixteenth-cen- 
tury additions to the two most famous Islamic monuments 
of the Iberian Peninsula — the Great Mosque of Cordoba 
(begun eighth century) and the Alhambra Citadel of Granada 
(fourteenth century). The monuments are linked by changes 
wrought during the reign of Charles V, who ruled as King of 
Spain (r. 1516-56) and as Holy Roman Emperor (r. 1519- 
56). The dialogue initiated by the juxtaposition of Charles' 
amendments and the original medieval Islamic architectural 
contexts invites an exploration of the circumstances in 
which the projects were conceived and carried out. 

Project One: The Cathedral in the Mosque 

The Great Mosque of Cordoba was begun between 784 and 
786 on the site of the VIsigothic church of S. Vicente, 
which was likely preceded by a Roman temple (Fig. 2). The 
Great Mosque was founded by the first Islamic ruler of the 
Iberian Peninsula, 'Abd al-Rahman I, a member of the 
Umayyad Dynasty of Syria. Scholars have noted how the 
Mosque's prayer hall, with its seemingly Infinite rows of 
spoliated columns and capitals surmounted by double arch- 
es, fuses visual references to the transplanted dynasty's 
Syrian Identity (the alternating red and white voussoirs for 
instance) with local Roman and Late Antique materials and 
techniques (particularly the horseshoe arch) (Figs. 3 & 4). 

Considered a wonder of the medieval world by both 
Muslims and Christians, the Great Mosque was the center- 
piece of Cordoba, one of the most important urban centers 
of the medieval Mediterranean. 

The Castilian forces of the reconquista conquered Cordoba 
in 1236, although the city was already greatly diminished 
by the political turmoil that followed the disintegration of 
the central Umayyad government in the eleventh century. 
Despite Cordoba's impoverished state, its status as the for- 
mer capital of al-Andalus lent the city's conquest by the 
Castllians great symbolic significance. The Importance of 
this victory is demonstrated by Ferdinand III of Castile's 
consecration of the entire structure of the Great Mosque as 
the cathedral of Santa Maria Mayor immediately after tak- 
ing the city. As the repository of an important Muslim relic, 
the Great Mosque of Cordoba was one of the holiest and 
most venerable of Muslim sites, and its importance tran- 
scended the boundaries of al-Andalus. ^ 

The Castllians who settled in Cordoba following the recon- 
quista apparently had no qualms about worshipping in the 
mosque. During the three hundred years in which Christians 
worshipped there, an agglomeration of small chapels and 
altars erected around the perimeter of the former prayer hall 
constituted the main additions to the building. The additions 
were even articulated using the same basic architectural 
and decorative forms which had characterized the mosque 
from Its inception, though with the addition of figural sculp- 


A turning point In the history of the building as a site of 
Christian worship came In 1523 when the Bishop and 
Canons of the Cordoba Cathedral proposed to construct a 
new church within the former mosque. The proposal initiat- 
ed a controversy that placed church officials at odds with 
the Cordoban town council. Part of the impetus for the proj- 
ect proposed by the Cordoban Bishop was no doubt a desire 
to compete with more than a century's worth of construc- 
tion at the new cathedral In nearby Seville. 

The conquest of Seville by the Castilian forces in 1248, 
twelve years after the conquest of Cordoba, followed the 
same pattern of appropriation and adaptation as at 
Cordoba. After the conquest of Seville, the city's Great 
Mosque, an enormous hypostyle mosque and courtyard 
constructed in the twelfth century, was consecrated as the 
Cathedral of Santa Maria de la Asuncion. Like the Mosque 
at Cordoba, Seville's new Christian congregation used the 
former mosque with minimal alterations for many years. 
Extensive earthquake damage in the fourteenth century, 
however, necessitated rebuilding. Over the course of the fif- 

teenth century, the remains of Seville's Great Mosque were 
systematically destroyed to make way for a new Gothic 
cathedral, the plan of which followed the enormous foot- 
print of the former mosque's prayer hall. Seville's new 
cathedral was a powerful emblem of the city's newly accu- 
mulated wealth, derived from commercial ventures In the 
Americas, and the cathedral's dominating presence in the 
city was a reminder of the religious and political status it 
enjoyed as arch-episcopate and the recipient of royal 
patronage. Seville's new cathedral was virtually completed 
by 1523, when the Bishop and Canons proposed their proj- 
ect for the Cordoba mosque-cathedral. The work at Seville 
was no doubt present in the mind of the Bishop of Cordoba 
and the Canons when they proposed to construct a new 

The proposal was not well received in Cordoba, however, 
where there were no pressing structural reasons to replace 
the celebrated structure. Indeed, a Cordoban civic council 
intervened in the fledgling undertaking, ordering the project 
to a halt. The seriousness of the opposition to the destruc- 
tion of the former Great Mosque was unequivocal; the 
Council threatened capital punishment to anyone who 
altered the structure of the former mosque in any way until 
the matter was resolved. In an attempt to preserve the 
existing structure, the Council appealed to Charles V to 
ensure the survival of their "singular and most celebrated 
antique building. "^ Without ever actually laying eyes on the 
building, Charles V sided with the Bishop and Canons' in 
favor of a new church, and a new main chapel [capitta 
mayor) was constructed within the existing structure. 
Unlike the additions which had characterized the previous 
generations of Christian intervention, the project endorsed 


by Charles V was dramatic in its invasiveness; to all appear- 
ances an entire Gothic cathedral was inserted into the very 
heart of the former prayer hall. In order to accommodate the 
new capilla mayor, sections of the ninth- and tenth-century 
additions to the prayer hall were demolished, and the dou- 
ble arcades of the hypostyle interior were filled with panels 
of relief sculpture to define the chapel walls. In plan, the 
new chapel disrupts the illusion of the endless "forest of 
columns" which had formerly characterized the interior 
space, and the soaring elevation of the addition dramatical- 
ly changed both the way the mosque was experienced as a 
ritual space and the way in which the total architectural 
composition was viewed from outside. When Charles V vis- 
ited Cordoba in 1526 to assess the results of his support, 
his reaction was famously unenthusiastic. "If I had known 
your intentions," he allegedly commented, "you would not 
have done this. You desired what could have been con- 
structed anywhere, but here you had that which was 
unique in the world."'' 

Project Two: The Two Palaces 
Despite his denunciation of the addition to the Great 
Mosque of Cordoba accomplished under his authority, 
Charles almost immediately initiated another project at the 
Alhambra. Founded in the thirteenth century by the Nasrid 
dynasty, the last of the Islamic rulers on the Iberian 

Peninsula, the Alhambra was a complete palatine city com- 
posed of a fortress, baths, mosques, industrial areas, and a 
number of gardens and palaces (Fig. 5). Whereas the Great 
Mosque of Cordoba ushered in the Peninsula's Islamic era, 
the Alhambra witnessed its end. As the site from which the 
last Nasrid Sultan was exiled from the Iberian Peninsula by 
the Castilian monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492, the 
Alhambra became the focus of great nostalgia for what was 
perceived as the vanished glory of the Peninsula's Islamic 
past. The Alhambra has acquired layered meanings for 
those who appropriated it and those who visited it which 
are usually associated with the perceived glory of the 
Islamic past, or the significance of the Christian conquest of 
the Peninsula. 

Ferdinand and Isabella, the rulers of the newly unified 
Peninsula and the grandparents of Charles V, appropriated 
the Alhambra as their administrative and residential center. 
They adopted Nasrid court practices and even stipulated 
that the Alhambra be preserved as a national monument. 5 
Charles was also struck by the Alhambra, since he purport- 
edly exclaimed upon seeing it, "Unhappy is he who lost all 
this!"^ Charles visited Granada in 1526, the same year in 
which he viewed the new chapel in Cordoba and initiated a 
project to construct a new palace within the Nasrid citadel. 
However, escalating tensions with the Ottoman Empire, 


France, and the papacy forced him to plan the new project 
through correspondence with Spanish collaborators familiar 
with the Alhambra site7 

In 1527, while on the military campaign which ended in the 
disastrous Sack of Rome, Charles V received a preliminary 
proposal for the new palace — a freestanding, square, sym- 
metrical structure with a round interior courtyard, first con- 
ceived as a small residential villa. Though this basic formu- 
la was maintained in the imposing structure eventually con- 
structed, Charles insisted on the accommodation of admin- 
istrative functions within the new building, thus changing 
its character from private royal residence to bureaucratic 
center and necessitating the destruction of parts of the 
Islamic complex. 8 The massive scale of Charles' new 
palace, the severe geometry of the circle-within-a square 
plan, and the almost unadorned forms are rendered all the 
more vivid when juxtaposed with the intimate scale and 
ornamental richness of the Nasrid palaces located just steps 

Interpreting the Projects 

Charles V's involvement with the new chapel at the Great 
Mosque of Cordoba and the new palace at the Alhambra 
signals a departure from previous Christian patronage at the 
two Islamic monuments. How are we to interpret this shift? 
The answer hinges on the relationship between Charles V 
and Spain, and the political tensions between Western 
Europe and the Ottoman Empire which characterized his 
reign. Part of what distinguished Charles' reign as Holy 
Roman Emperor from those of his predecessors was the 
tangible wealth that he derived from his power base in 
Spain, the most powerful of the Western European coun- 
tries at the time. Charles V dominates much of the history 
of sixteenth-century Western Europe. The material and mil- 
itary benefits derived from his Spanish crown and the polit- 
ical power he wielded as Archduke of Germany and Holy 
Roman Emperor place him as the key player of events asso- 
ciated with the increasingly powerful Ottoman Empire, the 
rise of Protestantism, the Sack of Rome, and the revolt 
within his Spanish kingdom. As Holy Roman Emperor, 
Charles was at the forefront of European attempts to stave 


off the Ottoman Empire. The increasing power of the 
Ottomans was accompanied by a new tide of European hos- 
tility toward Islam, as the advance of Ottoman troops into 
Europe seemed to signal the impending conquest of west- 
ern Christendom. The 1520s, when the projects at the 
Great Mosque of Cordoba and the Alhambra were initiated, 
were the most turbulent years of the sixteenth century; the 
additions to the two venerable Islamic monuments convey 
much of the tension Europeans felt about Islam, as well as 
the European ambivalence about the material remains of the 
Islamic past with which they were confronted on the Iberian 

In 1 527, the same year in which he began corresponding on 
the specifics of his new palace at the Alhambra, Charles' 
imperial troops sacked Rome. This event was stimulated in 
part by the complex political maneuverings of Charles him- 
self, the Pope, and the kings of France and England. ^ 
Charles' army spared Florence from the looting which was 
considered a victorious army's due, but could not be 
stopped from pillaging the papal city. As Holy Roman 
Emperor, Charles' first duty was to defend Christianity. The 
attack on Rome by a Christian army, in light of the Ottoman 
threat, is indicative of the troubles that plagued Western 
Europe and its Church. The rise of Martin Luther also 
seemed to signal a crumbling from within at a time when 
Christian Europe needed a unified front to withstand the 
Ottoman forces. Accompanying the rising political tension, 
malicious stereotypes about Muslims that had originated in 
the Middle Ages proved astoundingly tenacious and were 
repeated in sixteenth-century literature. One such work, 
composed under the patronage of Charles V himself, used 
established stereotypes in descriptions of the Ottoman 
Turks as vicious rapists who preyed on innocents, virgins, 
married women, widows, and orphans, and who desecrat- 
ed religious images. '° Europeans worried that the Spanish 
Muslims might join the Turks or the Syrians in an attempt 
to overthrow Christian rule, creating a strained religious and 
cultural atmosphere in sixteenth-century Spain. 

However, anti-Muslim sentiment constituted only one part 
of the socio-cultural context that underlies the changes 
made to the former Islamic sites in the sixteenth-century. 
Local competition also informed the creation of the addi- 
tions: in the case of the Great Mosque, the desire of the 
local Bishop and Canons to vie with nearby wealthy Seville 
must have been a factor in the campaign for an updated 
church. Similarly, the architectural style embodied by the 
High Renaissance buildings — such as Donate Bramante's 

centrally-planned Tempietto — associated with the papal 
court, must have provided strong motivations in the con- 
ception of the new palace at the Alhambra (Fig. 6). In addi- 
tion, the palace needed to accommodate the extensive 
court associated with the office of Holy Roman Emperor. 

Considering the religious and political context in which 
Charles V was embroiled, the dramatic additions to the 
Great Mosque of Cordoba and the Alhambra, with their 
insistence upon Gothic and Renaissance forms, are emphat- 
ic architectural statements about the desire of sixteenth- 
century Christian Europe to control the past and, by exten- 
sion their stand against the rise of the Ottoman Empire. Yet, 
the sixteenth-century additions, when viewed in tandem 
with their Islamic contexts, also convey a deep ambivalence 
about the Islamic monuments on the part of the projects' 
patrons and the local communities who identified deeply 
with the monuments despite their Islamic history. In fact, 
the extent to which the Islamic origins of the monuments 
were present in the minds of the communities who used 
them IS not clear. Surely, the importance of the monuments 
stemmed from the layers of meaning and memory acquired 
during their posx-reconquista appropriation by new commu- 
nities of users and patrons, more than any conception of 
the monuments' Islamic history. 

I have already noted Charles V's celebrated preference for 
the Great Mosque of Cordoba before the insertion of the 
new capilla mayor. And, like many other Europeans who 
visited the Alhambra in the sixteenth century, Charles also 
clearly admired the Nasrid palaces. He was particularly 
attracted to the Court of the Lions and insisted that the new 
palace be sited in a way that would allow him immediate 
access to it from his private apartments, although the con- 
figuration he desired would have necessitated the destruc- 
tion of the Alhambra Church (again, a former mosque) of 
Santa Maria del Alhambra. '^ The local Christian population 
strongly opposed the destruction of the mosque-turned- 
church: when Charles requested that the archbishop of 
Granada deconsecrate the site to allow for construction, the 
archbishop responded that such authority rested with the 
Pope alone, and further admonished Charles V with the 
examples of Constantine and Theodosius, Roman emperors 
who had given their palaces to the Church. Considering the 
recent Sack of Rome by Charles' army, the Pope was 
unwilling to deconsecrate the site. Charles finally accepted 
the impossibility of building the new palace immediately 
adjacent to the Court of the Lions and the project was able 
to proceed. Remarkably, Charles' willingness to destroy a 


church and to suffer the disapproval of the Christian com- 
munity merely to gain greater proximity to the Court of the 
Lions resulted in a four-year delay in construction of his new 

The European valorization of Islamic material culture, includ- 
ing architecture, in the sixteenth century was of course not 
a new phenomenon, but the continuation of a long-estab- 
lished pattern. Beginning in the Middle Ages the Church put 
Islamic luxury goods, especially textiles and objects of rock 
crystal and precious metal to liturgical use. Saints' relics 
were often wrapped in Islamic textiles, even in fragments 
woven with passages from the Koran, and the use of psue- 
do-Kufic calligraphy in paintings of the Madonna and Child 
became common. i3 Such instances of Christian adaptation 
of Islamic material culture are sometimes simply dismissed 
as polemical statements of Christian conquest of Islam, but 
clearly such appropriations demonstrate, as the sixteenth- 
century additions to the Great Mosque of Cordoba and the 
Alhambra do, the ambivalence surrounding architecture, 
religion, politics, and identity that underlay the appropriation 

of Islamic objects by sixteenth-century Christian Europeans. 
Despite the political tension between Western Europe and 
the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century, the reactions 
of Charles V and those who lived with and used the monu- 
ments indicate that to summarize the additions to the reli- 
gious structures as the architectural embodiments of anti- 
Muslim polemic, as we might instinctively do, is too sim- 
plistic. At the very least, such an interpretation is but one 
part of a larger and more complex array of meanings which 
can be attached to the monuments following the later addi- 
tions. The sixteenth-century changes may be best under- 
stood as a way in which Charles V and the Bishop and 
Canons of Cordoba preserved monuments which they val- 
ued despite any evocation of the Islamic past or Muslim cul- 
ture which the buildings might have conveyed. The addi- 
tions at the Great Mosque of Cordoba and the Alhambra 
also provided a way for the Christian rulers to distance 
themselves from and to disrupt the cultural continuity 
which these two most celebrated Islamic monuments of the 
Iberian Peninsula represented in the sixteenth century. 



1 In rethinking the assumptions I made about this topic in my M.A thesis, from 
which this article is drawn, I benefited from many conversations with several 
members of HTC at MIT. I would especially like to thank Howayda al-Harithy, 
David Friedman, Michele Lamprakos, and Kathy Wheeler-Borum for generously 
sharing their thoughts and advice. 

2 Jerrilynn D, Dodds, "The Great Mosque of Cordoba," in al-Andalus: The Art 
of Islamic Spain (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art and Patronato de la 
Alhambra, 1992), 1 1-26; Nuha Khoury, "The meaning of the Great Mosque of 
Cordoba in the tenth century," Muqarnas 13 (19961: 80-98. 

3 Luis Marfa Ramirez y las Casas-Deza, Corografia Historico-Estadistica de la 
Pfovincia y Obispado de Cordoba, Vol, 2, edited by Antonio Lopez Ontiveros 
(Cordoba: Publicaciones del Monte de Piedad y Caja de Ahorros de Cordoba. 
19861. 458. Dodds, "Great Mosque," 24-25. 

4 Casas-Deza. 459- 

5 Ibid., 458-59. 

6 Jonathan Brown. "Spain in the Age of Exploration: Crossroads of Artistic 
Cultures," Circa 1492. edited by Jay A Levenson (New Haven; Yale University 
Press. 1991), 41-49. 

7 Karl Baedeker, Spain and Portugal, Handbook for Travelers, fourth edition 
(Leipsic: Karl Baedeker. 1913), 349. 

8 For a discussion of the figures involved in the complex building history of the 
palace, see Earl Rosenthal, The Palace of Charles V in Granada (Princeton: 
Princeton University Press, 1985), 3-21 . For an analysis of Machuca's paintings 
see Rosenthal, 223-235; for Luis Hurtado Mendoza's background and classical 
interests see Rosenthal, 7-10. 

9 Ibid., 23-27. 

10 Andre Chastel, The Sack of Rome. 1527, translated by Beth Archer 
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977}, 

1 1 John S. Geary, "Arredondo's Castillo inexpugnable de la fee: Anti-Islamic 
Propaganda in the Age of Charles V," Medieval Christian Perceptions of Islam. 
edited by John V. Tolan (NY: Garland Publishing. Inc., 19961, 291-312. 

12 Ibid., 35-42. 

13 Oleg Grabar, "Islamic Architecture and the West — Influences and Parallels," 
Islam and the Medieval West, edited by Stanley Ferber (New York; University 
Art Galleries, 1975). Also see Vladimir P. Goss, "Western Architecture and the 
World of Islam," The Meeting of Two Worlds: Cultural Exchange betv\/een East 
and West during the Period of the Crusades, edited by Vladimir P. Goss 
(Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University, 
1986), 361-376. 


Fig. 1: Court of the Lions, Alhambra. 

Fig. 2: Great Mosque of Cordoba, plan showing the vaulting and tracery with 

the sixteenth-century addition at the center. 

Fig, 3: CapHla Mayor in the Great Mosque, dome. 

Fig. 4: Great Mosque Prayer Hall, Cordoba. 

Fig, 5: Alhambra complex. Palace of Charles V (circle-within-square plan) in the 

center with the Court of the Myrtles and the Court of the Lions in the north and 

northeast corner. 

Fig. 6: Palace of Charles V, Granada, 





Architecture is an expansive concept with multifarious def- 
initions. It Is primarily the envelope of human activities and 
beliefs expressed diversely depending on time, culture, envi- 
ronment, setting, and technical capability. But It Is also that 
branch of human creativity that is relied upon to frame, 
embody, and preserve memories. Despite Victor Hugo's 
melancholy proclamation, ceci tuera cela, suggesting that 
printing will eliminate architecture as the carrier of memory, 
the Interdependence between architecture and memory has 
never waned. Nor does it show any sign of weakening in 
the more than a quarter century since the Introduction of 
computers, followed by telecommunication, digitization, 
and the web. In fact, recent developments in the study of 
memory have focused on architecture as a fertile field of 
investigation Into the mechanisms by which Individuals as 
well as groups create, store, retrieve, and manipulate their 
memories. Not surprisingly, the connection between archi- 
tecture and memory has not been more effective than in 
two of the most primordial and intimate of architectural 
spaces: the house and the temple. And, nowhere has the 
memorial reciprocity between house and temple been more 
pronounced than In the two foundational Islamic religious 
centers, the Ka'ba in Mecca and the Mosque of the Prophet 
in Medina. 

Most of us recognize the house as our first encounter with 
architecture. We experience It with our senses and our feel- 
ings: spatially, visually, viscerally, verbally, emotionally, and 
Imaginatively. It Is our abode, shelter, place of residence, 
and often our place of birth or death. It Is the center of our 
personal and familial activities and the shield of our privacy 
and intimacy. We live within its walls, under its roof, pro- 
tected from inclement weather, harsh sunlight, intrusive 
gaze, and unwelcome transgressions from the outside. 

Most societies have developed a mental image of the house 
that epitomizes Its essential qualities and is passed on to all 
their members. We all have seen how children of a certain 
culture, particular climate, or social milieu tend to draw the 
house in a similar fashion, often as a cube or a rectangle — 
the perfect shape of shelter — pierced by windows and 
doors, and sometimes topped with some l<ind of roof (usu- 
ally a gabled roof in the northern climes). But this is a gen- 
eral representation of the house, any house, as the collec- 
tive memory of society has imagined It. It Is not yet "my 
house." For a house to be my house, it has to be architec- 
turally and perceptually personalized. It has to encompass 
the realm of my private and intimate life. It has to be the 
repository of my memories and those that I share with my 
family, friends, and relatives. It also has to be the reminder 
of my most significant moments, my successes and fail- 
ures, my bygone years, and my departed loved ones. All of 
these feelings have to be inscribed in my house's forms and 
spaces, its nooks and crannies, its details and furniture, and 
have to remain there decipherable only to me and to those 
close to me. My house also has to evoke the same sensa- 
tions that I once experienced while inhabiting it, even 
though the events and environments in which I first encoun- 
tered these sensations may have disappeared. Furthermore, 
I should be able to recall these memories even when I see 
my house In my mind's eye, speak about it to others who 
do not know it, or come back to It after many years of 
absence. This is precisely the unfettered abundance of 
meaning that architecture possesses and manipulates. In 
addition to the collective memory that begets and defines it, 
architecture has the capacity to absorb and convey private 
meanings, meanings that reflect and identify Its designers, 
owners, viewers, or users. 


on Earth. According to different legends, it was based on a 
heavenly model and created prior to the Earth itself, the 
angels built it on divine order, or Adam, the first man, built 
it. After the Deluge, it was rebuilt by Abraham and his son, 
Ishmael, as a house of worship for the one God but was 
later contaminated by polytheistic practices. The Ka'ba thus 
carried primal mystical significance and primeval memories 
that were reclaimed by Muhammad during his prophetic 
mission, and which culminated in his triumphant re-entry 
into Mecca, cleansing the Ka'ba of all signs of polytheism. 
The centrality of the Ka'ba was ensconced in the nascent 
Islamic faith through its declaration as the qibia (liturgical 
orientation) towards which all Muslims should pray and the 
institution of the hajj to Mecca — the ritual circumambulation 
of the Ka'ba seven times — as one of the five fundamental 
Pillars of Islam. Scholarly treatises and folkloric narratives 
later elaborated on these initial functions which endowed 
every detail of the Ka'ba and its surroundings with a host 
of cultic meanings and religio-historic importance. 

Architectural types vary in their ability to accommodate 
memories. Some are believed to be more capacious than 
others, but there is a commonly accepted correlation 
between the monumental and the memorial. Large, lofty, 
and complex buildings tend to command an excess of 
meaning that cannot be filled with their direct and inten- 
tional functions and intents. The memorial surplus is usual- 
ly consumed by symbolic, ideological, emotional, intellectu- 
al, or private references. Most celebrated national and reli- 
gious monuments take advantage of this established corre- 
spondence between grandeur and remembrance to con- 
struct their messages. But this is only one type of significa- 
tion in memorial architecture — and the most obvious and 
direct one at that. A more mature architecture does not 
depend for its meanings on elaborate designs, large spaces, 
precious materials, or extensively circumscribed signs and 
relics. This artful architecture evokes the memories 
attached to it but does not fix them. It consciously mani- 
fests ample possibilities of nonspecific functions and mean- 
ings in its forms and spaces so that the individual can make 
it his or her own architecture, the milieu of his or her own 
memories, while it retains its initial role as the repository of 
collective meanings and memories. 

The Ka'ba in Mecca displays these attributes as well as 
some more potent ones for it serves as the Omphalos of the 
Earth according to Islamic cosmology (Fig. 1|. It is an 
ancient cubical stone building with no definitive origin. The 
Koran (3:961 calls it the first "House of God" IBayt Allah) 

But the Ka'ba, by virtue of its simple, hollow, and 
unadorned form — which seems to have changed little 
despite its having been built five times in the first Islamic 
century — is also at once the most ideal space for the 
embodiment of abstract concepts and the best receptacle of 
individual memories. Despite its immutability as the 
axiomatic symbol of Islamic cosmogony, the Ka'ba is the 
perfect crystallization of the most elementary notion of the 
house Ibayt) as imagined by most people: the cube, the 
most earthly of the basic geometric forms as opposed to the 
sphere, the most celestial of them. The Ka'ba (which is pho- 
netically suggestive of the English word "cube" although 
they belong to different families of languages) is thus akin 
to the original house. It carries in its cubicalness the most 
fundamental recollections of home as they have been 
imbedded in the depth of human collective memory since 
people began to settle down, build houses, and live togeth- 
er in kinship-based communities. 

Whence comes the symbolic, supra-religious omnipotence 
of the Ka'ba. With its familiar and supremely memorial 
form, containing within its neat contour universal signs 
related to the upbringing of the individual in a protective 
shelter with a loving family, the Ka'ba invites its visitor to 
indulge memories of his/her own house. It ingratiates itself 
to the visitor as a private, warm, and familiar space 
although it never loses either its essential significance as 
the congregational center of the Islamic nation or the focus 
of Its transcendental connection with heaven. This Is the 


reason for the Ka'ba's success as a memorial structure. It 
Is both the original House of God, which is the locus of 
human veneration as postulated by Islamic theology, and 
the ultimate reminder of both the ubiquitous and particular 
house imagined by most people. It is the unique proof of a 
link to the heavenly realm and an intimate human meta- 
form. It represents Islamic collective memory in its most 
inclusive and universal form, and it serves as the referent to 
the private, individualized, and fuzzy memory of one's own 
home. Perhaps this is why the Ka'ba has rarely been copied 
in Islamic architectural history; its recent imitators — notably 
in Dacca, Bangladesh — have failed to endow their model 
with the same kind of significance which the original so 
effortlessly imparts to its visitors. Its inimitability lies in the 
unique memory it embodies. 

The Mosque of the Prophet in Medina is diametrically 
opposed in conception to the Ka'ba. The Mosque of the 
Prophet is physically and liturgically attached to his house 
and was similarly venerated by Muslims since the beginning 
of Islam (Fig. 2). However, it was meant to be mundane, 
social, and public and to mark the establishment of the 
Islamic polity under the authority of its leader Muhammad 

and its constitution, the Koran. A simple open and rectan- 
gular court bordered on the north and south by rudimenta- 
ry hypostyle halls, the Mosque accommodated several func- 
tions. It was the House of the Nation (Bayt al-Umma), a site 
of worship, an agora, a courthouse, a learning center, and 
a refuge for the poor, homeless, and destitute. But what 
lent the Mosque its fundamental and unique significance 
and ensured its lasting remembrance was first and foremost 
its contiguity to the House of the Prophet iBayt al-RasuD — 
a measly row of shacks on one side of the Mosque, each 
housing one wife. The adjacency of the house imbued the 
Mosque with the personal and intimate aspects of the 
Prophet's life, constituting the ideal life depicted in sunna 
(traditions of the Prophet) compilations and considered by 
every pious Muslim as the moral and behavioral example to 

The Mosque of the Prophet was fast duplicated and repro- 
duced during the first Islamic century in numerous congre- 
gational mosques in Arabia, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, 
Yemen, North Africa, Spain, and Iran. Copies of the 
prophetic archetype, however, were not based solely on 
ideal and memorial values: they were also consequences of 

58 ,'RABBAT 

the Mosque of the Prophet's near-perfect assimilation of the 
religious, political, and social needs of the first Islamic com- 
munities. The early mosques were all effectively used as the 
centers of Islamic life in both newly founded and conquered 

In time, the House of the Prophet was absorbed into the 
continuously expanding mosque to accommodate the 
increasing flow of visitors. In one of the rooms of the House 
of the Prophet, Muhammad and his close companions and 
immediate successors Abu Bakr and Omar were entombed. 
The entire complex became secondary only to the Ka'ba as 
a site of visitation during the hajj. Subsequently, the memo- 
rial, symbolic, and functional properties of the original struc- 
ture became assimilated with the collective consciousness 
of the growing Islamic nation, pointing to the memory of the 
founder of Islam and the organization of his divinely inspired 
and well-guided community. The copies of the Mosque of 
the Prophet had to subsume these transformations 
although, unlike their archetype, they contained no prophet- 
ic relics or spatial memories of the Prophet. Instead, they 
became the architectural signs of the nation's yearning to 
recapture the Golden Age of the Prophet and to reenact his 
communal model. Even the liturgical elements that became 
essential features of every mosque by the end of the first 
Islamic century — the minaret, mihrab, and minbar— had 
their origins in some initial prototype from the Prophet's 
Mosque. The institutionalization of the elements reinforced 
the dual functions of all mosques, regardless of exact archi- 
tectural form: to remember so as to emulate the prophetic 
exemplar. They further articulated the memorial function 
through the specific meanings that they came to carry as 
landmarks, as sites of ritual services, and as reminders of 
the first instances of their use during the lifetime of the 
departed and beloved founder, the Prophet Muhammad. 

what became integral to Islam and Islamic world views had 
its first test run before being incorporated either in the com- 
memorative rituals of the ha/J or the day-to-day practices of 
Muslims. The two structures struck a delicate balance 
between the monumental environments of collective mem- 
ories and the warm, intimate spaces of personal associa- 
tions and remembrance. What is more, they accomplished 
this task primarily through their intelligently referenced 
architecture. By formally and symbolically alluding to proto- 
typical houses, the two structures enabled the individual to 
form personal connections to them (complete with private 
images and fantasies) without losing an iota of their reli- 
gious and cosmological hold on the Islamic collective con- 
sciousness. The Ka'ba and the Mosque of the Prophet 
enriched their attendant abstract and enigmatic meanings 
by imbuing them with the universal and serene connota- 
tions of the house; as a result, they succeeded in bringing 
hallowed concepts down to the level of the lived and the 
tangibility of everyday life. 

No doubt, this is why these two primordial houses have 
become the subjects of intense acts of private devotion and 
commemoration. Countless Muslims communicate with the 
buildings in highly personal ways. They imagine them as 
familiar forms, dream about visiting them, experience a cer- 
tain pious rapture when they see them, remember them 
passionately after their visit, and try to recapture their 
impressions of them lyrically and pictorially. By means of 
these sensory or pictorial experiences, the Ka'ba and the 
Mosque of the Prophet have transcended their communal 
and cosmological meanings to penetrate the inner circles of 
the individual's mental space, lodged there as private and 
privately cherished memories. This, in my opinion, is the 
noblest achievement to which architecture can aspire. 

The Ka'ba and the Mosque of the Prophet were the sites of 
epochal events in early Islamic history, thus endowing the 
buildings with powerful meanings which became deeply 
rooted in Islamic collective memory. In addition, the two 
houses were the foundational loci upon which much of 


Ftg, 1: The Ka'ba, Mecca. 

Fig, 2: The Mosque of the Prophet, Medina. 






The twenty minutes of edited video footage from the fourteenth-century congregational Mosque of Yazd in Iran engages Henri 
Lefebvre's definition of a monument as: 

determined by what may take place there and consequently by what may not take place there, (prescribed/ pro- 
scribed, scene/obscene) J 

Proscribed activities do take place at the Mosque, but they are transgressive. I chose to shoot and edit the communal, non- 
ritual activities of the Mosque — the activities which occur "between prayers" — and I privileged moments of authority and 
transgression, work and play. The caretakers, the regulators of the space, constitute almost archetypal figures of authority 
controlling what is allowed, and what is not, while children and young men are figures of transgression, animating the Mosque 
with proscribed activities. 


Neither the figures of authority within the Mosque nor those of transgression are stable. The camera participates in shifting 
the activities of the individual from prescribed to proscribed or vice versa. For example, I had requested that the caretaker, 
All Yarmir, use the camera to record his favorite places in the Mosque; he unexpectedly turned the lens on his friend in imi- 
tation of my own interviews. AN, operating a small Hi-8 video camera, is ridiculed for his "play:" "You're very busy?" taunts 
his friend, "You're shooting film!" 


The children, although proscribed from playing in the Mosque — "they have to play in the lane" — play carefree in several spaces 
of the Mosque including the mihrab (two girls run between their praying mothers). "Capturing" such behavior prescribes it — 
the children are validated by the camera; the camera also discourages the caretakers from admonishment. Focusing study on 
the "obscene," by definition, renders it a "scene." 


In recording the prescribed and proscribed functions of the monument, the edited video also highlights what is generally pro- 
scribed from our archival practices. Instead of constructing a "scene" that focuses on the monument as a built artifact, the 
video presents the lived occupation of the Mosque — what would conventionally be relegated to outside the camera's frame 
or edited out of the final product. As such, the figures of authority, the caretakers, and the figures of transgression, the chil- 
dren, stand in for the unstable identity of the scholar herself. 


Although I ostensibly present the edited footage in an academic context, as a "document" of study, the highlighted instabil- 
ity of authority and transgression implies the instability of the status of my own work. The incorporation into the video of 
footage shot by the Mosque's regular inhabitants problematizes my "play" as an outsider. Yet, the disparate quality of our 
images and the respective size of our cameras provide evidence of my own apparent "authority" in relation to these local 
"authorities" and to the work. Within the video, my work is explicitly thrown into the discourse of the prescribed and pro- 
scribed activities of the Mosque. This is apparent in an overheard discussion between a few local young men and the head 
caretaker, Haji Abbas: 


Mohammad Reza: She's here to take pictures for her study, is there anything wrong with that?" 
Haji Abbas: "Yes there's something wrong with that!" 

Ali Reza: "What? What's wrong?" 

Haji Abbas: "Don't you care about the sanctity of the mosque? Is it a mosque or is it a cinema?" 

Is it a mosque or is it an exhibition hall? Is it a mosque. ..or is it a school?" 

The moving image as a form of knowledge production is typically marginalized within the "discourses of sobriety" which they 
serve; this experiment, situated within the domain of architectural history and theory, constitutes a similarly transgressive 
"play. "2 The "sanctity of the mosque" to which Haji Abbas refers might stand in for the "sanctity" of scholarship that dic- 
tates propriety in representational practice, admitting certain mediums and excluding others. 


Another passage from Lefebvre structures the edited footage as well: 

Architecture produces living bodies, each with its own distinctive traits. The animating principle of such a body, its 
presence, is neither visible nor legible as such, nor is it the object of any discourse, for it reproduces itself within 
those who use the space in question, within their lived experience. Of that experience, the tourist, the passive spec- 
tator, can grasp but a pale shadow. 

The final sentence, "Of that experience the tourist, the passive spectator, can grasp but a pale shadow," concludes the work. 
Although the scholar, clearly an outsider, is conflated with the tourist, she is incorporated within the video and actively par- 
ticipates in grasping shadows (digital encodings). The edited video offers both a critique of how we conventionally think about 
architecture and represent it, effacing the practices of the occupants, and offers an alternative, albeit imperfect, and one of 
many possibilities. 


Also Featuring 


All Yarmjr and Haji Abbas 

The congregation at the Mosque of Yazd 

Mohammad Reza Alvansaz 

C. Hadimioglu 

All Yarmir 

Hassan YazdJ 

C. Hadimioglu 

Translations and Interviews in Yazd 

Mehdi Saeed Shirazi 
Mozaffer Davudi 

Translation in Boston Mehdi Yahyanejad 


1 Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, translated by Donald Nicholson- 
Smith (Oxford. UK: Basil Blackwell Ltd., 1991), 224. 

2 Bill Nichols, Representing Reality (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 
1991), 23, Nichols coins the phrase "discourse of sobriety." 






It is no longer a question of either maps or terri- 
tory. Something has disappeared: the sovereign 
difference between them that was the abstrac- 
tion's charm. For it is the difference which forms 
the poetry of the map and the charm of the terri- 
tory, the magic of the concept and the charm of 
the real. 
— Jean Baudrillard, Simulations, 1983, 3. 

Driving from Boston to Montreal and Ottawa for the first 
time, I was taken by the "charm of the territory." Yet, I was 
also agitated by the tension between the map and the terri- 
tory. The map helped me make sense of the new territory, 
and ultimately find my way, whereas the territory kept 
resisting the mapping conventions and challenging my read- 
ings, constantly revealing itself in surprisingly different 
ways. Losing the way became part of the experience that 
was taxing in as much as it was charming. On the stretch- 
es of highway, I wondered what it would have been like to 
travel without a map. Or with a map of inverted orientation, 
as the medieval Islamic maps (Fig. 1), or with one of 
Heinrich Bunting's sixteenth-century maps depicting the ter- 
ritory in the form of a winged stallion or a crowned woman 
(Figs. 2 & 3). 

Through the mediation of sophisticated satellite and com- 
puter technologies, we now assume a certain real and 
objective relationship between the map and the territory 
and we see the stable geography of the earth as preceding 
the map. The map has simply become an abstraction of this 
non-negotiable reality, a mere tool with which to compre- 
hend the land and find the way. In order to ensure univer- 
sal comprehension of the map, the conventions of mapping 
are made consistent and transparent. Thus, a uniform sense 
of spatiality anchored in the Cartesian conception of reality 

has been engendered by modern cartography. This sense of 
spatiality — an integral part of modernity — was alien to many 
pre-modern societies wherein geography was subordinated 
to theology, and wherein the map preceded the territory 
(Fig. 4). Access to God's all-encompassing vision of the ter- 
ritory, attained today through aerial surveys and satellite- 
projected images, was achieved primarily through religious 
texts. Visions, depictions, and spatial experiences of the 
territory were, therefore, conditioned by religious concep- 
tions, which enabled multiple forms of imaginative mapping 
of the world. Today, we are compelled to define such map- 
ping as "imaginative" because we have another form of 
mapping which we consider to be "real." Yet, these imagi- 
native projections were just as real for pre-modern commu- 
nities as the more technically sophisticated projections 

The travelogues of the Damascene scholar 'Abd al-Ghani al- 
Nabulusi, (d. 1741 AD) for example, show how imaginative 
mapping operates. In the travelogue of his journey to 
Jerusalem, al-Nabulusi frames the recording of his memoirs 
with an imaginative mapping of the geography of Jerusalem 
and the surrounding landscapes, referencing the geography 
of Mecca and other towns in the Hijaz region. ^ Al-Nabulusi 
had not been to the Hijaz when he projected this geograph- 
ic correspondence; he had neither seen nor experienced the 
places and the landscapes to which he referred. His major 
journey to Syria, Egypt, and the Hijaz took place four years 
after the journey to Palestine. Religious narratives enabled 
al-Nabulusi to conceptualize and visualize continuities and 
parallels between these two sacred geographies, and to 
make a unique sense of both the geography of Jerusalem he 
was experiencing and that of Hijaz, which was not immedi- 
ately available to him. 





Al-Nabulusi reports a story, related by one of the Jerusalem 
locals, of a Christian master builder who converted to Islam 
after a Muslim saint appeared to him in a dream. To vener- 
ate the saint, the master builder decided to construct a 
domed tomb on his grave. At the very moment of comple- 
tion, when the master builder climbed up the dome to install 
the crescent, the surrounding geography suddenly trans- 
formed. From the top of the dome in the neighborhood of 
Ginin in Palestine, Mecca and Medina suddenly became vis- 
ible; the master builder could decipher the vision only with 
the help of the son of the saint himself. 2 

Our modern sense of spatiality makes it difficult for us to 
comprehend such projections. How is it possible for the 
thousands of miles that distance Ginin from Mecca and 
Medina to collapse? The answer lies in both the different 
notion of mapping and the different sense of spatiality the 

pre-modern Muslim had, which derives from subordinating 
geography to theology and from regarding the map as pre- 
ceding the territory. Mapping was not just a representation- 
al act but a creative one. 

By "mapping," I do not mean the scientific enterprise of 
geographers and cartographers — although this is included — 
but making sense of geography through various conceptual 
or graphical means. 3 To map is to take the measure of the 
world, and taking measure involves, on the one hand, selec- 
tion, translation, and differentiation, and on the other, visu- 
alizing, conceptualizing, recording, and representing. 
Whether conceptually or graphically projected, mapping 
configures space, translating it into a familiar and recogniz- 
able place wherein geographic locations are meaningfully 
related. Thus, mapping is not confined to the archived and 
the drawn; it can be spiritual, political, cultural, or moral, 






and it can include, as many examples show, the remem- 
bered, the imagined, the anticipated, and the desired. 
Accordingly, mapping plays a central role in configuring our 
sense of spatiality, that is, our ways of understanding and 
making sense of the landscape, both in its natural and con- 
structed form. Today, "cultural mappings play a central role 
in establishing the territories we inhabit and experience as 
real," as religious mappings in pre-modern societies." Each 
religion constructed its own spatiality of difference which 
unfolded a range of creative and interpretive possibilities.^ 

To understand what the spatiality of difference entails in 
different religious contexts, one needs to examine the 
notions that are associated with the creative, rather than 
the imitative, projection of geography. In other words, it is 
not the working of cartographic production that is most 
revealing here, but rather the mode of thinking. To under- 

stand al-Nabulusi's narrative, for instance, we need to turn 
our attention to the religious concepts that are associated 
with the significance of, and relationship between, places 
and landscapes. The Arab-Islamic concept of fada' if is per- 
haps the most pertinent. ^ Fada'il literally means "virtues" 
and "merits;" it is a plural form of fadila, meaning "moral 
excellence," and it derives from the trilateral f.d.l., meaning 
"to be in excess," "to excel," and "to be superior." It is 
used mainly as an adjective in panegyric literature to denote 
the virtues and merits of certain texts, individuals, cities, 
monuments, or times. The concept of fada'il pre-dates 
Islam, but, in the early stages of the religion, the fada'il 
texts compiled sayings attributed to the Prophet and his 
immediate companions. Later, they developed into a recog- 
nizable style of historiography infused with Islamic mythol- 
ogy and popular legends. The fada'il discourse derives pri- 
marily from being, as it were, a by-product of, and a direct 




extension of, the science of prophetic traditions {'ilm al- 

The religious concept of fada'il might seem remote to map- 
ping, however, it is pertinent to both the constructed and 
the natural environment. Fada'il texts mark certain sites and 
cities, conferring religious significance upon them and 
establishing hierarchical relationships between them. The 
instrumentality of mapping is inscribed in the concept of 
fada'il through its tactics of delineating virtuous places, of 
structuring them hierarchically, and of imbuing them with 
spiritual, cosmological, and eschatological significance. 
Through the textual delineation, a conceptual map is drawn. 
However, to see the agency of the fada'il at work as a form 
of religious mapping, one need not look in the fada'il texts 
themselves, for they only act, so to speak, as a "structur- 
ing grid." Rather, other chronicles, literature, and particular- 
ly, travelogues, and accounts of visitation (ziyarat) demon- 
strate the fada'il as a mapping guide. Occasionally, these 
texts present narratives which reveal the conceptual grid 
and the mapping agency of the fada'il through the "con- 
tours" of peculiar spatial practices and experiences. Both 
the correspondence al-Nabulusi visualizes between the Hijaz 
region and Jerusalem and the extraordinary visual experi- 
ence of the master builder derive from the sacred virtues 
the two regions mark on the map of holiness. What lies in 
between is less significant and can be removed by religious 

The concept of fada'il is predicated on divine authority and 
mediated through literature. In this way, the concept of 
fada'il bears some similarity to the concept of "geopiety" 
found in other traditions. However, its modes of realizing 
and mapping a spatiality of difference are uniquely Islamic.^ 
Despite their often-considerable length, the fada'il texts 
lack the compositional coherence of a narrative and the 
cogency of an argument. They are made up of fragmented, 
yet authoritative statements around which are woven a 
web of conceptions, mythical stories, and historical 
accounts. The fada'il authors, many of whom were hadith 
scholars (i.e., scholars concerned with the authentication 
and accurate reporting of the prophet's sayings) construct- 
ed their arguments through authentication rather than inter- 
pretation or measuring them up against the reality they rep- 
resent. The authors of the fada'il rarely ask: what does the 
reported statement (or hadith) say? Or, is what is said valid? 
They instead ask: on whose authority does the authenticity 
of the statement hinge? What are the reported variations? 
And where does the text fit in the overall economy of hadith 

scholarship? The context of these representational tracts, 
recedes behind the concern for its legitimacy and authen- 
ticity. The text itself appears transparent; it does not pose 
questions concerning agency, representation, and reality. 
What the text says is conflated with what it represents: the 
text becomes the reality. The fada'il discourse can thus be 
seen as a literary creation of reality; it realizes what it rep- 
resents. It realizes difference; it makes difference real geo- 
graphically; it creates a spatiality of difference. 

In this sense, the concept of fada'il promotes a discrimina- 
tory view of geography based on God's own "preference" 
{tafdil, a derivative of fada'il). Things do not just happen 
serendipitously, but manifest in accordance with divine par- 
tiality, the logic of which hinges on the necessity of differ- 
ence. In the overall scheme of creation, according not only 
to Islam but also to many other religions, different people, 
texts and places are not of equal status. In the beginning 
was difference. And difference was never meant to be pro- 
jected democratically. Difference was predicated on a pref- 
erence—an absolute, non-negotiable divine preference. 
From this perspective, the /arfa '// concept can be seen as an 
attempt to layout the matrix of differentiation spatially and 
to reveal the pattern of divine preference. It is a literary act 
to inscribe the ontological foundation of difference. Yet, dif- 
ference IS a relational concept that requires a horizon of ref- 
erence against which the other can be differentiated. 
Naturally, the fada'il projects Islam as that horizon of refer- 
ence to explain and identify divine preferences. The non- 
Muslim other occupies an awkwardly marginal position that 
IS never in accordance with the order of things. The other 
is de-placed and de-spatialized. The fada'il texts on 
Jerusalem, for example, relate an elaborate story of how 
the Christians' attempts to construct a monumental building 
over the sacred rock — where the Dome of Rock was later 
built — long before the Islamic takeover, repeatedly failed. 
Their exquisite and highly adorned structure miraculously 
collapsed three times, forcing the Christians to consider a 
different site. It was not their architectural or engineering 
inadequacies that led to the repeated collapse, but simply 
their religious otherness. According to Islamic tradition, the 
site was originally designated for Muslims, and could only 
tolerate an architectural possibility in concordance with, as 
It were, the legitimate "cartographer," Islam. In this man- 
ner, the fada'il discourse relies on a politicized difference. 
Difference is politicized through religious scenarios of 
encounters with the sacred, which take place in the blurred 
spatiality of the real and the imaginary, the earthly and the 
heavenly. It is a determinedly Islamic version of geo-politics 


wherein God, along with the Muslims, acts as a central fig- 
ure in the plotting, unfolding, and staging of events. 
Through such geo-mythical conceptions, the ^ada 7/ enables, 
on the one hand, a unique religious mapping of the world, 
and on the other, the articulation of a spatial sensibility that 
blurs the boundary between the mythical and the real. It is 
through both the mapping act and the blurring of spatiality 
that the fada'il confers significance on places, buildings, 
and landscapes, thereby constructing its spatiality of differ- 
ence (Fig. 4). 

There are significant differences between conventional 
mapping and that of the fada'il. As a representational act, 
conventional mapping generates a duality: the real and the 
image. This involves an implicit tension: which comes first 
the geography or the map? When the territory is seen to 
precede the map, geographic reality becomes objectively 
stable, as is the case today. But when the "map" is seen to 
precede the territory, then geographic reality is never objec- 
tively stable, never "something external and 'given' for our 
apprehension. "8 As a mode of seeing, the mapping of 
fada'il precedes the territory; in fact, it creates the territo- 
ry. Whereas the geograpfiy of conventional mapping is, by 
definition, mimetic, with the drawn map signifying spatial 
stability, the geography of the fada'il is projective and cre- 
ative. It is a "tracing" of potentiality rather than fixed reali- 
ty, a potentiality that unfolds in a multitude of forms with 
different encounters, engagements, and participations. As 
documented in numerous texts, this potentiality seems to 
actively engage the imagination of pre-modern Muslims, 
broadening their scope beyond the confines of the actual. 
Since the text is conflated with reality, the fada'il does not 
differentiate between reality and representation, but 
between what is on and o^A the map; what is virtuous and, 
therefore, different, and what is not. 

Maps were originally conceived as a means of finding and 
founding the world. ^ Until modern technologies facilitated 
the projection of stable, non-negotiable images of the earth, 
mapping was largely an individually creative act (Fig. D.'O 
Pre-modern Muslim geographers, for instance, were able to 
creatively project their own "images" of the world. In pre- 
modern Islam, neither the term "map" nor the act of "map- 
ping," existed in the modern sense. The terms sura, rasm, 
naqsti, which are used in pre-modern Arabic literature, 
denote the ideas of "form," "image," "drawing," and "paint- 
ing" and are not exclusive to the field of geography and car- 
tography. The modern term kharita, used both in Turkish 
and in Arabic, came from Catalan carta through the Greek 

kfiarti.''^ It bears no relevance to pre-modern Islamic geo- 
graphic conceptions or spatial practices. 

It is interesting to note that until the later Ottoman period, 
Muslims do not seem to have mapped their holy places. 
Medieval mapping of Jerusalem, for example, was a purely 
Christian genre. ^^ Neither Jews nor Muslims were known to 
have mapped the city, despite its significance in both tradi- 
tions and their conspicuous preoccupation with its geogra- 
phy, architecture, and the urban landscape. Until the 
Crusade at the end of the eleventh century, only one map 
of Jerusalem is known to have existed, the Byzantine 
Madaba map of the sixth century. After the Crusaders' con- 
quest, about twenty maps are known to have existed until 
the end of the fifteenth century, when the new printing 
technology had facilitated the production of maps. ^3 From 
the sixteenth century onwards, Ottoman images of cities 
and urban centers began to emerge, mostly in the form of 
pictorial representations. This ambivalence towards the 
graphic representation of territory tends to give primacy to 
the verbal-literary depictions of the fada'il and the imagina- 
tive constructions it engenders. As late as the eighteenth 
century, as al-Nabulusi's texts clearly indicate, the concept 
of the fada'il was widely operative. The fluidity of its ver- 
bal-literary expressions had continued to activate the imag- 
inative mappings and to evoke the poetic visualizations of 
geographies and landscapes up to the colonial encounters. 

To conclude with a poetic example of religious mapping and 
the spatiality of difference in pre-modern Islam, I shall draw 
again on al-Nabulusi's travel memoirs. Describing the rela- 
tionship between two springs of water, Silwan in Palestine 
and Zamzam in Mecca, al-Nabulusi reveals an interesting 
geo-poetical concern. i'' How can the water of Zamzam be 
salty when it is in the most virtuous place on earth? In tack- 
ling this question, Muslim scholars played on the meanings 
of the Arabic word 'ayn, which means both "spring" and 
"eye" to provide explanations. They depicted Mecca as the 
"eye" of the earth and Zamzam as the source of its water. 
Just as the water of the human eye is salty, so should be 
the water of Zamzam. But this poetic imagery leaves al- 
Nabulusi with an unsatisfactory image of a one-eyed earthi 
Resorting to his imaginative mapping of Jerusalem and 
Mecca to set things right, al-Nabulusi writes: 

The saltiness of the eye's water is evidently true 
Not out of imperfection, but rather of perfection. 
For this reason Zamzam's water is salty 
And so is Silwan's; both are refreshingly cold. 


These are the two eyes of the earth, 
One of the right, the other of the left. 
The right is in Mecca, the left in Jerusalem, 
Yet all the worlds are mere imagination.^^ 


1 Al-Nabutusi, al Hadra al-Unsiyya fi ahRihIa al-Qudsiyya. edited by A, al-'Ulabi 
(Beirut: al-Masadif, 1990). The journey took place in 1690 AD. 

2 Samer Akkach, "Mapping Difference: On the Islamic Concept of fada'il," in 
De-Placing Difference: Architecture, Culture and Imaginative Geography, edited 
by S. Akkach, Proceedings of the third international symposium of the Centre 
for Asian and Middle Eastern Architecture lAdelaide: CAMEA. 2002), 9-21. 

3 On mapping, see Denis Cosgrove (ed.l, Mappings, London: Reaktion Books, 
1999; and Geoff King, Mapping Reality: An Exploration of Cultural 
Cartographies (London: Macmillan Press, 1996). 

4 King. 16. 

5 D. Cosgrove, "Introduction: Mapping Meanings, " in IVIappings, 1-23, 

6 See Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd Edition, "Fadila." 

7 Yi-Fu Tuan, "Geopiety: A Theme in Man's Attachment to Nature and to 
Place," in Geographies of the l^ind: Essays in Historical Geography, edited by 
David Lowenthal and Martyn J, Bowden (New York: Oxford University Press. 
1976). 11-39. 

8 James Speculation, "Critique and Invention." in Cosgrove. l\/!appings. 213-52. 
See also. King, "The Map that Precedes the Territory," Mapping Reality, 1-17. 

9 J. Corner, "The Agency of Mapping," in Cosgrove, Mappings, 213. 

10 Christian Jacob, "Mapping in the Mind: The Earth from Ancient Alexandria," 
in Cosgrove, Mappings, 24-49, 

11 J. B. Harley and D. Woodward (eds). History of Cartography. 11:1, 
Cartography in the Traditional Islamic and South Asian Societies (Chicago: The 
University of Chicago Press. 1992), 7, 

12 Milka Levy-Rubin and Rehav Rubin. "The Image of the Holy City m Maps and 
Mapping." in City of the Great King, edited by Nitza Rosovsky (Cambridge: 
Harvard University Press, 1996), 352. For medieval map-making and visualisa- 
tion in the Christian context, see Evelyn Edson, Mapping Time and Space: How 
Medieval Map-makers Viewed their World (London: The British Library, 1997). 
Oleg Grabar, The Shape of the Holy: Early Islamic Jerusalem (Princeton: 
Princeton University Press, 1996), 16. Grabar confirms the absence of maps of 
Jerusalem until the late Ottoman period, 

13 Levy-Rubin and Rubin, 1996. 

14 Al-Nabulusi, al-Hadra al-Unsiyya. 187-92. 

15 Ibid., 190. 


Fig. 1: A cosmic map from Ma'rifetname by the eighteenth-century mystic 
scholar Ibrahim Haqqi (d. 1780). The map shows the "topography" of the 
world, consisting of the earth and the skies, the underworld and the heavenly 
world, with all encompassed by the divine throne. 

Figs. 2 & 3; Two maps by Heinrich Bunting (1 545-1 606), 1 581 . Europe, depict- 
ed in the form of a crowned Virgin, and Asia, depicted in the form of the famed 
Greek winged Horse. Pegasus. 
Fig, 4: Al-ldnsi's World map, dated 1456. 

AKKACH,/ 75 




Sooner or later, anyone involved in the academic study of 
the arts will come across a strange problem: there is almost 
no modern religious art in museums or in books of Western 
art history. It is a problem that is at once obvious and odd, 
known to most who study art, yet hardly discussed. 

The Problem of Even Starting a Conversation 

For some people, art simply is religious, whether the artists 
admit it or not, for it expresses such things as the hope of 
transcendence or the possibilities of the human spirit. The 
absence of religious art from museums specializing in mod- 
ernism is seemingly due to a kind of prejudice on the part 
of curators' narrow coterie of mainly academic writers who 
have not acknowledged what has always been apparent: art 
and religion are entwined. For example, Jackson Pollock is 
a religious painter even though neither he nor the serious 
critics of his work have thought of his work as religious. 

Some believe that modern art like Pollock's cannot be reli- 
gious, because it would undo the project of modernism by 
going against its own sense of itself, its nature, especially 
if modernism was predicated on the rejection of pre-modern 
institutions, religion among them. Some modernists were 
also suspicious of the nineteenth-century academic custom 
of using art to tell religious stories. A contemporary paint- 
ing of the Assumption of the Virgin would be carrying on a 
moribund tradition of narrative painting, last encouraged at 
the end of the nineteenth century. Modernism, it could be 
said, has relinquished all that. 

For others, Pollock's paintings might well be religious, but it 
is difficult to construct an acceptable argument describing 
how his works express religious feelings. The word religion 
can no longer be coupled with the driving ideas of mod- 

ernist discourse. The two ways of talking have become 
alienated from each other, and it would be artificial and 
insensitive to bring them together. 

And for others still, the whole problem is misstated, 
because Pollock might well be religious in some respects 
and non-religious or irreligious in others. There is no mono- 
lithic art any more than there is a property for it called reli- 
gious. These terms are just too diffuse to work. What mat- 
ters is the life of a particular Pollock painting. For example, 
there is a way to argue that Pollock's Man/Woman sustains 
religious ideas, but with She-Wolf, the correct domain of 
explanation might be Pollock's mid-twentieth-century sense 
of myth. 

Some might argue that Pollock serves as a poor example to 
make the case that modernism is not religious because 
Abstract Expressionism effectively erases explicit symbols 
and stories in favor of non-verbal gestures. Look elsewhere 
in modernism, earlier abstract painters for example, and you 
will find plenty of religious art: Paul Klee made religious 
paintings, as did Marc Chagall and Georges Roualt. 
Modernism is bound to religion just as every movement 
before it has been. 

The differences between these opinions run deep. For peo- 
ple in my profession of art history, the very fact that I have 
written this essay will be enough to cast me into a dubious 
category of fallen and marginal historians who do not under- 
stand modernism or postmodernism. But here, I am after 
something simple, and more introductory: to set out, in the 
briefest possible compass, the salient facts about the alien- 
ation of the academic discipline of art history and the study 
of religious meaning in art. I hope that what I have to say 


will be taken generously, not as if this were the armature 
for a full history, but in the spirit I intend it: as an attempt 
to start conversations. 

Art as Ritual and Religion 

Once upon a time — but really, in every place and in every 
time — art was religious. Eight thousand years ago, Europe, 
Asia, and Africa were already full of sculpted gods, god- 
desses, and totemic animals. There were bull-gods and but- 
terfly-gods, bird-goddesses and frog-goddesses, and deities 
that were nothing more than lumps of uncarved stone. 
Neolithic people left offerings, built altars, and etched pic- 
tures into rock walls. 

Art was religious or at least ritualistic, and remained so in 
the earliest civilizations: in Sumer and Akkad, in Hittite and 
Phrygian Turkey, in Egypt and Persia. The inception of 
Christianity did not change art's religious purpose. In a love- 
ly scene of the Madonna and Child in a landscape, from the 
beginning of the third century, a prophet stands to their 
right, raising his arms in a gesture that says, "Behold!" The 
figures sit in the shade of a small tree with oversize flow- 
ers. It must have been a refreshing scene to contemplate for 
the Christians who worshipped in the dank Catacomb of 
Priscilla, beneath the streets of Rome, and it serves as one 
example of the way in which the early Christian religion 
used painting as a mode of expression. Art continued to 
serve religion through the Renaissance. 

In addition, what are known reflexively as art and religion 
were inseparable through much of the recorded history of 
China, India, and Mesoamerica. The same parallel and com- 
patible purposes of art and religion can be found in images 
made by the Incas, the Scythians and Ife, the Moche and 
Code, Jains and Phrygians, and even the people — whose 
name is lost — who built the pyramids at Teotihuacan. 

Art as Expression 

There is a problem with this history. Although there is plen- 
ty of religious painting after the Renaissance in Western art 
history — even at the beginning of the twenty-first century 
there is a tremendous amount of religious art — something 
happened in the Renaissance: the meaning of art changed. 
Art began to glorify the artist and artist's skills took prece- 
dence over the subject depicted. 

This is a much-debated subject. Historians such as Hans 
Blumenberg and Hans Belting, and philosophers including 
JiJrgen Habermas, have written histories of the West cen- 

tered on the nature of this change. ^ Given Marx's critique 
of religion as an artifact of society, "any return to tradition- 
al values (from Catholic or Islamic fundamentalism to 
Oriental New Age wisdom) is doomed to fail" because it is 
"impotent in the face of the thrust of Capital. "^ 

On the other hand, the Protestant Reformation and Italian 
Counter-Reformation produced art that remains indispensa- 
ble for understanding the sixteenth and seventeenth cen- 
turies. As the historian David Morgan argued, "Who can 
think of the Enlightenment without natural religion? Who 
can think of American democracy without Jefferson dis- 
secting the New Testament to extract the moral teachings 
of Jesus?"3 

It is a difficult problem. Yet on balance, I think more is 
risked by defending the presence of religion in post- 
Renaissance art than by insisting on its necessary absence. 
In the Renaissance, the representation of piety seeped into 
the codification of art. Art historians such as William Hood 
and Georges Didi-Huberman have tried to understand the 
delicate frames of mind that led painters like Fra Angelico 
to put humanist learning to the service of pious aims.* 

By the eighteenth century, there were more signs of strain. 
When Francisco Goya was commissioned to make religious 
paintings, he suddenly became serious and dropped the 
bizarre imaginative license. North of the Pyrenees, Francois 
Boucher and Jean-Honore Fragonard lost a sense of play- 
fulness when they had to depict holy scenes. In effect, 
those artists split their oeuvres: painting itself worked dif- 
ferently in religious and secular contexts. 

Biblical episodes and figures were still common in the nine- 
teenth century, but they were handled differently from sec- 
ular themes. For the painter Ary Shaffer, religious commis- 
sions were matters of the most pole-faced sobriety; 
Thomas Couture made stupendous paintings of the ancient 
world, bursting with gold, swags of luscious red drapery, 
spilling cornucopias, and dancing maidens, but his religious 
work is at once ambitious and entirely unconvincing. For 
such painters, religious commissions were a duty, prose- 
cuted soberly and honorably. Painting itself — its highest 
possibilities and ambitions — often had to be pursued outside 
of religious commissions. 

Some nineteenth-century artists were rabid atheists but 
many others, including Eugene Delacroix, Jean-Auguste- 
Dominique Ingres, and Thomas Cole practiced their faiths. 


But when do these facts aid in an understanding of the 
painting? Caspar David Friedrich and Otto Philip Runge were 
religious: Runge was a pious Lutheran, and Friedrich was a 
Pietist. Runge's Die Tageszeiten paintings were intended for 
a Gothic church he designed, and one of Friedrich's first 
paintings was an elaborate altarpiece. Yet Runge's work 
was iconographically eccentric, while Friedrich's was often 
stripped of explicit religious meaning. Friedrich experiment- 
ed with images of nature infused with a nameless, almost 
pantheistic spirit, and Runge made dazzling paintings with 
idiosyncratic figures. Though these artists were not atheists 
or even "non-religious," the manifestations of Christianity in 
nineteenth-century art by artists such as Friedrich, Runge, 
William Blake, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and Samuel 
Palmer (who painted bizarre and intense visions of English 
countryside), were subjective and often inimical to ordinary 
liturgical use.^ 

At this point the relation of art and religion could be clari- 
fied: gradually, the most inventive and interesting art sepa- 
rated itself from religious themes in Western art history. By 
the time of the Impressionists, there did not seem to be 
room left for religion at all. Monet was preoccupied with 
light and color, Seurat was bent on taking painting to a new 
formal stage, while Cezanne was interested in capturing 
nature faithfully. 

At the same time, religion persistently rose to the surface 
like a half-sunken boat. At the turn of the century, some 
lesser-known painters, such as Arnold Bbcklin, Ferdinand 
Knopff, and Odilon Redon worked in a mystical space 
between painting and poetry. Van Gogh had very passion- 
ate, if obscure, thoughts about how his art worked as reli- 
gion, although art historians tend to avoid the subject his 
confused thoughts on art, nature, miracles, and divinity. 
The book Van Gogh and Gauguin, for example, skims over 
the religious meaning of paintings such as Starry Night in 
favor of an analysis of the picture's geographical location 
and its secular literary sources. ^ 

Religion in the Pedagogy of Modernism 
But now, a hundred years later, it appears that religion has 
sunk out of sight. The mainstreams of modernism, begin- 
ning with Cezanne and Picasso and including Surrealism and 
Abstract Expressionism, were increasingly alienated from 
religion. Surrealism's rejection of religion took a particularly 
intransigent form on account of Sigmund Freud's critique of 
God imagined as a projection.'' It is telling that the major 
book connecting Surrealism to religion. Surrealism and the 

Sacred, is written by an artist and not an historian; it 
belongs more to the contemporary revival of Jungian- 
inspired spirituality than to the historiography of 
Surrealism. s Most pop art, minimalism, conceptual art, 
video, and installation art seems miles away from religion. 
Such art can often be understood as religious, but it is not 
often intended to be religious. 

If you pick up one of the heavy surveys of twentieth-cen- 
tury art, like H.H. Arnason's History of Modern Art, you 
may get the impression that artists stopped working for the 
church around the time of the French Revolution; before 
that, most European painting was religious. ^ Arnason 
begins his book with a lightning review of pre-modern art 
from Van Eyck to Raphael, including Matthias Grunewald's 
nearly insane Isenheim Altarpiece (1512-15, Colmar). The 
800 pages of the book barely discuss works that focus on 
religious themes. There is a photograph of Barnett Newman 
standing rigidly in front of his paintings of the Stations of 
the Cross (1966, National Gallery of Art, Washington), each 
canvas reduced to a severely abstract pattern of "zips," as 
he called them (stripes against a white ground). Another 
page shows one of Emil Nolde's religious paintings, the Last 
Supper {^909, Copenhagen), painted when he was in a kind 
of ecstatic trance. 

There is also a reproduction of Salvador Dali's Christ of St. 
John of the Cross (1951, Glasgow), but it is more an exam- 
ple of Dali's "paranoiac-critical" surrealist method than a 
religious painting. After all, the crucified Christ is shown 
hovering uncomfortably, head-down in a deep azure sky; he 
looks like the enormous spacecraft in the movie Close 
Encounters of the Third Kind. Just a few other artists out of 
the thousands in Arnason's book depict religious themes, 
among them Georges Roualt, Marc Chagall, and the English 
painters Graham Sutherland and Francis Bacon. Arnason 
chose one of Bacon's gruesome early pictures in which the 
crucified Christ is replaced by an animal carcass, with a 
monstrous man in a business suit sitting below, holding an 
umbrella to keep the blood from pouring onto him. 

Among these slim pickings, there is only one work that is 
actually in a church — or even presented in its setting- 
Matisse's designs for the little Chapel of the Rosary of the 
Dominican nuns in Vence, France (1951). It might be the 
only example of twentieth-century painting that is both a 
consecrated religious work and also a certified member of 
the canon of modernism. Jean Cocteau's church murals in 
Villefranche-sur-Mer just east of Nice, France, and those in 


the chapel Saint-Blaise des Simples in Milly-la-Foret are 
often reproduced, but they are not the most important of 
Cocteau's works. Maurice Denis's chapel in Saint-Germain- 
en-Laye, near Paris, is a fascinating example of modernist 
Catholic art, but it is seldom considered alongside contem- 
poraneous non-religious modernism. 

...AND IN Contemporary Art 

Contemporary art, I think, is as far from organized religion 
as Western art has ever been. This may be its most singu- 
lar achievement or its cardinal failure, depending on your 
point of view. The separation has become entrenched: pro- 
fessional art critics do not write about artists who follow 
major religions. In schools and departments of art, religion 
is considered irrelevant to the production of interesting art: 
religion is understood to be something private, something 
that need not be brought into the teaching of art. When the 
art world discusses religion, it is because there has been a 
scandal: someone has painted a Madonna using elephant 
dung, or has put a statuette of Jesus into a jar of urine. '° 
Otherwise, religion is seldom mentioned. 

But religious art thrives outside of the art world. People 
gather to see miraculous images that seem to weep real 
tears, and the stories make the evening news. In the 1 990s, 
a Moire pattern in the glass of a curtain-wall office building 
in Clearwater, Florida was interpreted as an enormous 
apparition of the Virgin Mary. Indeed, the iridescent image 
captured in a snapshot looks like the outline of any 
Renaissance or Baroque painting of the Virgin.' i In the 
United States, such reports are much more common than in 
Europe. They testify to a widespread interest in images that 
have religious significance. 

In the popular press, the goal of art is sometimes imagined 
as a fundamentally religious undertaking. Sister Wendy 
Beckett speaks eloquently about modern art as if it were all 
religious. In 1999, she judged an international competition, 
Jesus 2000, to find the perfect image of Jesus for the mil- 
lennium. '^ There were over a thousand entries from nine- 
teen different countries. Sister Wendy's pick for the winner 
was Janet McKenzie's Jesus of the People, a painting of 
Christ as an African-American man. Christ's body had been 
modeled from a woman's body, and McKenzie painted 
Native American symbols in the background. The contest 
was written up in newspapers across the country. One 
report in the Corpus Christ! Caller-Times described a local 
woman's entry, a depiction of Jesus as a middle-aged man 
wearing a baseball cap, standing on a country road with a 

dead-end sign in the background. '■* The artist explained that 
she had modeled the figure on a homeless man, but had 
given it her father's body, her own hair, and her daughter's 
nose. With her description, the painting could have been 
taken as a touching act of devotion; but these entries have 
not been considered as part of academic discourse. 

An Equally Brief Prognosis 

The conclusion of this history is obviously that fine art and 
religious art have parted ways within the context of aca- 
demic discourse and pedagogy. The difference between art 
and art-as-religion can be made visible in many ways. The 
University of California at Berkeley is adjacent to a 
Theological Union. Although the faculties have amicable 
relations, their purposes and understandings of art are radi- 
cally different. Students in the Theological Union are study- 
ing for religious vocations, and they tend to study art as a 
spiritual vehicle. Students in the Department of Art History 

ELKINS,' 79 

are preparing for careers as college professors and curators; 
when works of art are religious, they note it just as if the 
art were politically oriented, concerned with gender, or of 
interest for its recondite allusions. 

Most ambitious and successful contemporary fine art is 
thoroughly non-religious. Most New Age and spiritual art- 
contemporary art made for churches — is — this is blunt, 
because it needs to be said— just bad art. It is not just 
because the artists are less talented than Jasper Johns or 
Andy Warhol: it is because art that sets out to convey spir- 
itual values goes against the grain of history. The pressure 
of history is crucial: it has to be decided before it can be 
possible to seriously weigh academic and non-academic 
descriptions of religion and art. 


1 Hans Blumenberg, The Legitimacy of the Modem Age, translated by Robert 
Wallace (Cambridge; MIT Press, 1983); Hans Belting, Likeness and Presence: A 
History of the Image before the Era of Art, translated by Edmund Jephcott 
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1994), 

2 Slavoj Zizek, The Spectre is Still Roaming Around' An Introduction to the 
150th Anniversary Edition of the Communist Manifesto (Zagreb: Arkzin, 1998), 

3 Personal correspondance wrth David Morgan, 20 May. 2002. 

4 William Hood, Era Angelico at San Marco (New Haven: Yale University Press, 
1993); Georges Didi-Huberman, Era Angelico: Dissemblance and Eiguration. 

translated by Jane Todd (Chicago; University of Chicago Press, 1995). 

5 David Morgan provided the information on the artists' religious affiliations, 
although the conclusion I draw is my own. 

6 Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South, edited by Douglas Druick 
and Peter Zegers IChicago: The Art Institute, 2001). 

7 Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism, translated from the German by 
Katherine Jones (New York, Vintage Books, c1967l 

8 Celia Rabinovitch, Surrealism and the Sacred: Power. Eros, and the Occult in 
Modern Art (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2002)- In my experience, the influ- 
ence of Jung IS often pervasive and indirect in art instruction, but writers cite 
secondary sources, such as Joseph Campbell, instead of Jung's primary texts. 
See also Carol Becker's use of an analysis of the trickster figure in Carol Becker, 
"Brooklyn Museum: Messing with the Sacred," Surpassing the Spectacle: 
Global Transformations and the Changing Politics of Art (Lanham, MD; Rowman 
and Littlefield, 2002), 43-58, 

9 H,H. Arnason, History of Modern Art. fourth edition, edited by Maria Prather 
Arnason (New York: Harry N- Abrams, 1998). 

10 For Chris Of ill's Holy Virgin Mary and Andres Serrano's Piss Christ, see 
Becker, 43 58. 

1 1 Divine Mirrors: The Virgin Mary in the Visual Arts, edited by Melissa Katz 
and Robert Orsi (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), illustration on p. 7, 
credited to Guss Wilder til. 

12 "Jesus 2000," special Issue of the National Catholic Reporter, edited by 
Michael Farrell (December 24, 1999), 

13 Greg Bischof, "Artist Depicts Christ for New Millennium," Corpus Christi 
Caller-Times (January 1, 2000): Oil. 


Fig. 1: Janet McKenzie, Jesus of the People. 48" x 30" oil on canvas 


Caroline Jones Responds 


Your "Very, Very Brief History" is admirably polemical, but, 
as such, leaves us stuffed with arguments and questions. 
The broadest view of modernism's relation to religion might 
situate the museum object as replacing the ritual one — the 
altarpiece becomes available as art as soon as it is taken 
from the cathedral and placed in Le Louvre. A ritual aes- 
thetic function replaces the ritual religious function. This 
one-way street, as Benjamin might have called it, charts a 
historical path that is difficult to reverse — and this, I take it, 
is the story you seek to tell. Nonetheless, I think there is 
tremendous eschatological energy fueling twentieth-century 
(and early twenty-first century) art, and a thwarted appetite 
for "reading" religion in contemporary art. 

Let the conversation begin, 

— Caroline 


I am happy to have the chance to frame this essay, and try 
to answer your questions. Let me first interpose two points. 

The essay is rather ruthlessly condensed from a book about 
the place of religion in contemporary art (forthcoming, 
20031. The book is aimed at a very wide readership: so 
wide that part of my interest in the project was trying not 
to alienate its potentially far-flung readers. There is an enor- 
mous community of religious practitioners outside of aca- 
demia for whom modernism and postmodernism have yet to 
produce more than a sprinkling of viable religious objects. 
(The best scholar of that wider public, I think, is David 
Morgan.) For that community, the book I have written may 
seem too little concerned with religion. In fact, a major reli- 
gious press originally requested the book, but it was turned 
down on the grounds that it was mainly about art and not 

However, the community of art students is sometimes just 
as far-flung. What can be done about the fact that religious 
discourse is so often excluded from studio critiques? Many 
art students create works that cannot be identified with any 
major religion, but which are, nevertheless, clearly spiritual. 
In my experience, it is rare to find studio art instructors or 
art critics who are willing to address the religious aspects 

of such work unless, of course, the art is clearly critical of 
religion, adapts an ironic tone, or is privately spiritual in the 
way Bettye Saar's altars are. From an art student's point of 
view, words like "religion," and even "spirituality," may be 
inappropriate: they sound clumsy or literal, and students 
tend to avoid them even when they are the best available 
terms to describe the work. Serious, content-oriented reli- 
gious criticism is virtually absent from current art instruc- 
tion. So, my book is also meant to reassure readers that I 
will not be using words like religion as if they were ade- 
quate or even appropriately descriptive. 

The third community of readers — the historians interested in 
modern and contemporary art, who sometimes speak a lan- 
guage different from either of the other groups — may be 
most embarrassed by the question of religion, though most 
in need of asking it. I hope their different perspectives part- 
ly explain the tone and rhetorical frame of the essay. 

I propose a couple of quite specific definitions for "religion" 
and "spirituality." The deliberately narrow meanings I would 
like to adopt change the terms of the argument somewhat. 
Let me take "religion," then, to mean any named, organ- 
ized, institutional system of beliefs, including the trappings 
of such systems: the rituals, liturgies, catechisms, calen- 
dars, holy days, vestments, prayers, hymns and songs, 
homilies, obligations, sacraments, confessions, vows, bar 
mitzvahs, pilgrimages, credos, commandments, and sacred 
texts. Religion is therefore public and social, requiring 
observance, priests, ministers, rabbis, or mullahs, choirs or 
cantors, and the congregation. A good foil for this sense of 
religion is "spirituality." What I mean by spirituality — again, 
only for the purposes of this essay and the book — is any pri- 
vate, subjective, largely or wholly incommunicable, often 
wordless and sometimes even unacknowledged system of 
beliefs. Spirituality in this sense is only part of religion. 
Artists, I would argue, often try to discard the trappings of 
religion, in order to arrive at something that I think has to 
be called by a different name — spirituality. 

Given those two definitions, let me try to answer some of 
your questions. 

Jones: Isn't your view of abstraction very literal lor, as 
Michael Fried might say, "literalist?") All you have to do is 
move three feet over in the Museum of Modern Art, and you 
would see Barnett Newman's Covenant, or heaven forfend, 
the magisterial The Stations of the Cross: Lemi Sabachthani 
at the National Gallery of Art. In what sense is the Newman- 


Rothko-Morris Louis axis of sublimated Talmudic painting 
any less "about" religion than the haloed lady with the 

You ask whether modernist works are "any less 'about' 
religion than the haloed lady with the baby." I would say 
they are, and I propose that the fulcrum of the argument is 
in the "about." From a religious practitioner's point of view, 
an enormous gulf exists between work that is "about" reli- 
gion and work that can function in religious ritual. In that 
sense, modern and contemporary art really is profoundly 
non-religious. Art world venues admit work that is ironic 
about religion, that is openly critical of religion, that com- 
ments on religion, that modifies religious forms and sym- 
bols, that is private and spiritual (in the sense I intend), but 
It does not admit straightforward, sincere instances of reli- 
gious work. Artworks can be spiritual, and they can be 
about religion, but they cannot be religious. For example, 
many religious groups have used the Rothko chapel over the 
years (including, for example, Zoroastrians), and I am happy 
to admit them all as counterexamples to my thesis. A few 
years ago, 1 spent several days reading every one of the vis- 
itors' books that have been kept since the chapel opened. 
There are thousands of comments, and most are about the 
paintings as abstraction or somehow about religion. When 
the comments mention religion, they usually describe the 
paintings as ambiguous or otherwise troubling references to 
religious meaning. I hope my sense of modernism isn't "lit- 
eral" if I make the distinction between works that are 
"about" religion and those that can function in religious set- 
tings, for religious purposes. The Rothko chapel has long 
done both, but isn't it the exception that proves the rule? 
Of contemporary art production, how many works have 
functioned as religious objects? 

Jones: I want to argue with your history of modernism, as 
well as art. Wasn't the European painter "split" even more 
in the age of manuscript marginalia than in the supposedly 
modern period? The sacred geometry of the page enforced 
the separation of an outer world of farting cuckolds and an 
inner world of divine visions, mediated by the Word. 
Instead, the modern humanist subject was supposed to 
become a unified soul. 

This is an enormous question which I cannot address very 
well here. In my mind, it leads directly into the contempo- 
rary historiography of medieval art, especially in the work of 
the recently deceased Michael Camille. His debates with 

Hans Belting concerning the "modernity" of medieval art are 
important but unresolved steps. 

Jones: What are the "essentials of religious meaning" 
Friedrich strips? What could be more essential in its reli- 
giosity (essentially, in a German sense) than a romantic 
churchyard or a cross on a mountain? It seems to me that 
modern artists were, and are, constantly struggling to find 
contemporaneous ways to speak the divine (if always out- 
side the official strictures of the church). 

No one knows how Friedrich intended to use his altar, and 
no one can quite say how his cromlechs, ruined churches, 
or wayside shrines carry religious meaning. Joseph 
Koerner's reading— that they are metaphors of self, pres- 
ence, and memory — is far from religion; and some other 
readings are too close because they see things like crom- 
lechs as simple signifiers of Friedrich's sense of religion, 
whatever that may be. It is entirely true that "modern artists 
were, and are, constantly struggling to find contemporane- 
ous ways to speak the divine." In the vocabulary I propose, 
"divine" is closer to spirituality than religion: it is private, 
non-social, and partly incommunicable. Erasing the differ- 
ence between the largely illegible evidence of Friedrich's 
spirituality in his paintings, and contemporary German 
Pietism (Friedrich's religion), would also erase the distance 
between his fragmentary iconography and contemporane- 
ous religious iconography. I want to maintain that differ- 
ence, and distance. 

Jones: Is your theory confounded by the fact that Van Gogh 
worked as a lay preacher during the period of the Potato 
Eaters? There seems to be a confusion in your account 
between the spiritual aspirations of the artists, the embar- 
rassment of art history over "modern religious art" at the 
Vatican, and the continuous use of images — even modern 
ones — in popular religion throughout the twentieth century 
(see the illustration of Frank Stella's cruciform copper paint- 
ing in a 1960s article about Teilhard de Chardin). Would a 
theory of reception be more pertinent? 

Is my theory "confounded" by these facts? I hope not! 
Since you mention theories of reception, and since we are 
both interested in them, let me mention Carol Zemel's 
excellent work on Van Gogh — a model of 
Rezeptionsgeschichte. Van Gogh has certainly been evalu- 
ated as a religious painter. Otherwise, it would be hard to 
account for his popularity. But what, exactly, is religious 


about the art' For some people, it has been necessary to 
find overt symbols where none may exist: heavenly appari- 
tions, Last Judgments, and symbols of the incarnation. A 
recent exhibition we had at the Art Institute in Chicago, Van 
Gogh and Gauguin, is a nice illustration of the problem. In 
the very detailed catalog, there is only a single paragraph 
devoted to the "spiritual" meanings of Starry Night, 
because as historians, we are justifiably wary of speculat- 
ing, which is exactly what Van Gogh forces us to do. My 
own sense is that he was conflicted and not fully articulate 
about the ways his art worked as religious and the ways it 
referred to religion. The history of reception indicates that 
this very point continues to perplex viewers. 

Jones: "Contemporary art, I think, is as far from organized 
religion as Western art has ever been..." Nonsense. Visit 
IVIarina Abramovic, granddaughter of a Serbian saint, fast- 
ing away in the Sean Kelly gallery this month (through 
December 2002). Or go check out Damien Hirst's crucified 
skeleton, Chris Ofili's Nigerian-rap Madonna, Ann 
Hamilton's penitential table of weeping teeth, or Kiki 
Smith's Madonna performance on the parade to MoMA in 
Queens. From a few decades back, see Chris Burden's 
relics, Beuys and his dead hare, De Maria's minimalist Star 
of David, or Hannah Wilke's Intra-Venus. The breakdown of 
modernism into postmodernism only fueled an ongoing 
effort to continue to import ever more of the standard con- 
cerns of religion into art (note the substantial postmodern 
literature on the sublime, for example). Do you really think 
you can tell the "grain of history" from a quick paging 
through of the modernist canon, as witnessed in Arnason? 

all in my book, and of course there are hundreds more.) But 
such art is about religion; it doesn't instantiate religion. 
When contemporary artwork is called "religious," I become 
worried that we may lose the ability to make a distinction 
between images like those judged by Sister Wendy for the 
National Catholic Reporter, which can and do work in 
churches, and those which refer to religion from within an 
art world context. I worry that the claim that art and reli- 
gion are still productively mingled can underwrite the fur- 
ther claim that the art world and the institutions and artists 
involved in popular religion are effectively intertwined. (As 
they seem to be, for example, in the work of Christian 
Jankowski.) To me, differences run deep and need to be 
theorized, as Victor Taylor (Para/Inquiry) and Mark Taylor 
[Disfiguring) have tried to do. And I worry, too, about the 
effect on art-teaching if the near-absence of critical dis- 
course on religious meaning is taken as an asked-and- 
answered question. Arnason is not an authority (thank 
goodness!) but even the few examples he cites nearly all 
involve references to religious practices. They are not, in 
pragmatic terms, viable as religious objects outside of art- 
world contexts. Burden's relics are a perfect example of 
what I am provisionally calling "spiritual" work; so are 
Beuys's fetish objects, and even Spero's stenciled figures 
and Kiefer's burned books. ..that list is endless. But consid- 
er how very few examples there are of religious works 
made for churches or used in religious ceremonies: 
Matisse's Chapel in Vence, Cocteau's church murals in 
Villefranche-sur-Mer, and a half-dozen others — as against 
the hundreds of thousands of works that are secular, iron- 
ic, or largely private. 

Here, you say my assertion that contemporary art is as far 
from religion as art practices ever have been, is "nonsense." 
This is the crux of the matter. In one sense, it is true that 
my claim is "nonsense" because there are many artists who 
work with religious themes. (The ones you name are almost 

I hope this makes sense and that I have convinced you just 
a little. The whole subject is fascinating to me not least 
because it seems so nearly impossible to frame for all audi- 
ences: a sure sign that it is buried very deeply in our use of 
language and critique. 


t I N 2. PRtii> 

IOC ISO) ■" 

84 /URBAN 





Hauptstadt Berlin 

In 1958, thirteen years after the war had ended, the city of 
West Berlin, in collaboration with the West German 
Government in Bonn, organized a peculiar competition. 
Architects and urban planners were asked for proposals to 
redesign both halves of Berlin's divided inner city as the 
center for a German capital. The participants had to base 
their entries on the imaginary grounds that Berlin was reuni- 
fied, that they had unlimited financial resources, and that 
they possessed infinite political power.' Although the polit- 
ical and economical preconditions were deeply unrealistic, 
the competition, Hauptstadt Berlin (Capital Berlin), was any- 
thing but Utopian. The planning guidelines to which the par- 
ticipants had to adhere were taken from existing Western 
European cities. Regarded as "the most important competi- 
tion in Europe," Hauptstadt Berlin was paradigmatic for 
urban design practice in the postwar era.^ 

Nearly all the proposals advocated a comprehensive 
destruction of Berlin's historic urban fabric, even though a 
significant portion had survived the war and could have 
been restored. ■^ At the same time, competition organizers, 
participants, and commentators repeatedly emphasized nos- 
talgia for the site and wanted to maintain the historic con- 
tinuity of the proposed new city with the metropolis of the 
prewar era. This apparent contradiction was tightly con- 
nected to a conception of the city as a spiritual entity. Most 
proposals were imbued with the idea of a transcendental 
urban force — a "spirit of the city." This concept, which was 
promoted by participants and critics, has to be related both 
to the experience of the wartime destruction in Berlin and 
to the notion of progress and renewal that had been devel- 
oped in the prewar era. The pattern of representing the city 
in quasi-religious terms proved consequential for the remod- 

eling of Berlin and other German cities in subsequent 
decades, and accounted for a number of difficulties with 
which the city still has to contend at both the social and the 
infrastructural level. 

Restructuring the Historic Center 

The jury of the Hauptstadt Berlin competition included West 
Berlin's Head of Construction Hans Stephan, the architects 
Otto Bartning, Werner Hebebrand, and Edgar Wedepohl, 
and numerous other prominent architects and construction 
officials.* With the exception of Cornelius van Eesteren 
from Amsterdam, Pierre Vago from Paris, and Alvar Aalto 
from Helsinki, all jurors were German. They promoted a 
homogeneous vision of a modernist city, with functional 
separation, loosely dispersed high-rise buildings, and the pri- 
macy of the automobile. With respect to both its break from 
the existing city and the scale of the proposed streets and 
buildings, the most radical proposal was not that of the first 
prize winner, the office of Spengelin, Eggeling, Pempelfort, 
but rather that of Hans Scharoun and Wils Ebert, who were 
awarded one of two second prizes (Fig. 1).5 

Journalist Erich Link singled out Scharoun and Ebert's com- 
petition entry as a "truly great design proposal," whose 
essence could be summarized by its extraordinary "human 
scale. "^ Sabina Lietzmann pointed out that the proposal's 
great achievement lay in its "respect for the historically 
given fixed points in Berlin's inner city" and in the fact that 
it conserved "the layout of the old city plan."' Today, these 
judgments are profoundly baffling since the implementation 
of Scharoun and Ebert's proposal would have required the 
demolition of nearly all of the surviving prewar buildings, 
including some historic monuments that the competition 
organizers had listed as "fixed points," meaning that their 

URBAN,' 85 

preservation was desirable, though not required. Scharoun 
and Ebert proposed an inner city scattered with solitary 
buildings spread at great distances from each other, sur- 
rounded by enormous pedestrian zones. Some of the build- 
ings would measure more than ten times the width of 
Berlin's broadest boulevard, Unter den Linden. As a conse- 
quence of the strictly asymmetric outlines of buildings and 
surrounding areas, the prewar street plan would be wiped 
out. In order to maintain the huge pedestrian spaces and to 
keep motor traffic low, the plan proposed even more enor- 
mous subterranean parking lots. The largest would be situ- 
ated under an area in the southern Friedrichstadt, approxi- 
mately five hundred meters wide and two kilometers long, 
indicated by the horizontal, slightly bent structure in the 
lower third of the drawing. Berlin's inner city, as a whole, 
would be accessible through numerous six- to eight-lane 
freeways which far exceeded the competition organizers' 
requirements. Some of the proposed lanes were more than 
one hundred meters wide, cutting through residential neigh- 
borhoods that had been spared by wartime destruction. Due 
to the enormous scale of buildings and traffic areas, the 
coherence and consistency of Scharoun and Ebert's city 
design proposal could hardly be experienced by the pedes- 
trian user of these spaces, but would be limited to the 
bird's-eye-view of the plan. 

World City Spirit 

In his call for proposals. West Berlin's Head of Construction 
and jury member Hans Stephan emphasized that, "the spir- 
itual task (die geistige Aufgabe) of the competition. to 
revive and express the image of a world city (das Bild einer 
We/tstadt) and capital Berlin in a modern... form. "S The 
belief in a spiritual essence of the city, which pervaded the 
competition, was epitomized by the term Weltstadt (World 
City). We/tstadt was first and foremost a cultural assertion, 
explicitly rooted in the international significance that the 
city had had before the war. Organizers and participants 
repeatedly stressed their commitment to the "spirit" (Geist) 
of prewar Berlin, implying that a quintessential metaphysi- 
cal force — unalterable by political and economic change or 
even demolition — was still inherent in the present city of 
ruins and political division. Since this culturally defined 
"spirit of the city" was unaffected by the aggression implic- 
it in the Nazi capital's claims for metropolitan significance, 
it was able to warrant an unambiguously positive concep- 
tion of historic continuity. 

In Hans Scharoun's plan tor Berlin, the "spirit of the city" 
was omnipresent. Scharoun claimed that the city's meta- 

physical essence, solidified in a primordial image, constitut- 
ed the foundation of urban life. In Hauptstadt Berlin, he 
explicitly connected this notion of spirit to a remote (and 
better) past; 

In order to liberate us from the grips of a concept 
that has become alien to the city's nature (i.e. the 
nineteenth-century notion of the city), we need a 
fundamental idea, such as that which was still 
alive in the context of the medieval city. We have 
to regain. ..the spiritually based notion of struc- 
ture, because this is the only way to reintegrate 
the civilizing impulse into our cities in a meaning- 
ful way. 3 

Treating urban structure as a spiritual element, Scharoun 
thus established the diagrammatic simplicity of a city plan 
as an a priori value. 

The main characteristic of Scharoun's "structure" was a 
clarity and comprehensibility that could be experienced 

Contemporary representations of medieval cities 
show the clarity of the city and the comprehensi- 
bility of its structure as a pictorial form (gestalt- 
bi/dhaft) in the same way the city presents itself 
to the gaze of the arriving traveler. The big city (of 
the present) does not allow for a repetition of 
such a silhouette effect. Its essence can only be 
experienced optically from the core — from the 
inside. In Berlin, this is offered through the large 
space of the Tiergarten (the Central Park); the 
areas close to the Tiergarten are provided with the 
corresponding form (Gestalt).^'^ 

Similarly, Scharoun regarded his submission to the 
l-iauptstadt Berlin as a "solution in accordance with the 
nature of the city."^i According to Scharoun, it was this 
spiritual "nature of the city" that lies at the bottom of the 
form-giving process. 

We believe that what we can achieve at the 
moment is the organic form of the building, the 
city, and the society.... Therefore, our task is to 
strive for form, to tackle the "secret of form" 
(Geheimnis der Gestalt). This striving for form is 
an issue of the spirit (Ge/sf) — "spirit happens, spir- 
it is an event. "^2 

36 /URBAN 

m- -^ 

This line of thought can be traced back to the prewar era 
and Fritz Schumacher, who conceived of a building, and 
even more so, a city, as acting like an "organism" or a "liv- 
ing thing. "13 

The fundamental problem of Scharoun's "splrltually-based 
notion of structure" Is Its ambiguous representation. Since 
he considered It profoundly wrong to "let the picturesque of 
the romantic medieval city distract us from the structure 
that Is so essential and Important for us," he resisted trans- 
lating his structure into a formal reference to the historic 
city.'* Not the form, but the Intrinsic structure of the his- 
toric city, its "fundamental Idea," was supposed to guide 
his design. Regarding this Idea as an objective regulatory 
principle, Scharoun thus feigned the general validity of his 
individual experience. At the same time, he generated a 
powerful new urban paradigm. 

flexible terms, the "spirit of the city" lacks a formal equiva- 
lent. The spiritual conception of the city, tied to a lasting 
structure of the city, became a matter of faith. It seems that 
in the 1950s, Scharoun and his contemporaries had subli- 
mated their experience of rupture and wartime destruction 
and their desire for comprehensive renewal Into the quasl- 
rellglous belief In the "unalterable essence of the city," 
which they deemed fundamentally ahlstorlcal and thus, 
possessing eternal validity. This conviction inspired their 
persuasive model. The city was seen as Imbued with the 
spirit of historic continuity. As a self-sufficient "organic" 
body. It was supposed to work autonomously according to 
primordial laws. In the debate surrounding the Hauptstadt 
Berlin competition, it became apparent that the role of the 
hermetic Images and verbal representations that attempted 
to capture the "spirit of the city" was to stabilize and mon- 
itor this new urban model concept. 

The methodological device Scharoun used to shape his 
model concept divorced the city from Its verbal and pictori- 
al representation. Since clarity and comprehensibility are 

The destruction of the historic urban fabric, which the 
entries to the Hauptstadt Berlin competition proposed and 
which was carried out in many German cities in the decade 

URBAN,' 87 

that followed, was closely related to a mindset that framed 
the city in quasi-religious terms. The analysis of the debate 
over the competition also shows that all participants, organ- 
izers, and onlookers connected the promise of a better 
future to a nostalgic account of the past. Throughout the 
competition, memories of the prewar period were frozen 
into fixed images, endowed with new significance, and 
translated into an aesthetic scheme. Thus, architects and 
critics developed a concept of the city as an autonomous, 
hermetic organism permeated by a spiritual essence. This 
model was characterized by a self-referential logic, and was 
tied to an idea of historic continuity that functioned inde- 
pendently from the existence of historic urban fabric. The 
examination of the Hauptstadt Berlin competition shows 
how this model was controlled by a specific way of repre- 
senting the city in spiritual terms, both on a rhetorical and 
on a pictorial level. The effects of this process, both in the 
physical form of the city and in the debate on urban restruc- 
turing, are still felt. 


1 Carola Hem, "Planungsgrundlagen fur den stadtischen Ideenwettbewerb 
'Hauptstadt Berlin' — Denkschnft Berlin" (Call for proposals for the competition 
"HaupstsTadt Berlin," 19571, in Hauptstadt Berlin. Internationaler stadtebaulich- 
er Ideenwettbewerb 1957/58, edited by Helmut Geisert, Dons Haneberg, and 
Carola Hem. Berlinische Galene {Berlin: Berlinische Galerie. c1990l, 298. 
Catalog for an exhibition at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin from 3 November 
1990 to 6 January 1991, 

2 "Bedeutendster Wettbewerb Europas," Der Tagesspiegel (June 29, 1958}. 

3 Most scholars believe that more historic buildings were demolished as a result 
of urban renewal in postwar Berlin than had been destroyed during the war- 
Compare Wolfgang Schache, "Von der Stunde Null und der Legende des 
WJederaufbaus," in Wendezeiten in Architektur und Stadtplanung in the series 
Arbeitshefte des Instituts fur Stadt- und Regionalplanung der TU Berlin Vol. 36, 
edited by Erich Konter (Berlin: Universitatsbibliothek der Technischen 
Universitat Berlin, 1986), 79; and Wolfgang Schache and Wolfgang J- Streich, 
"Wiederaufbau Oder Neuaufbau? Uber die Legende der total zerstdrten Stadt," 
in IFP Stadtenttwicklung Berlin nach 1945. ISR-Diskussionsbeitrag Nr. 17, edit- 
ed by Wolfgang Schache and Wolfgang J. Streich (Berlin, 1985), 44. In 1945, 
approximately fifty percent of Berlin's inner city was destroyed- 

4 Hein, 445, 

5 From 1 945 to 1 946, Hans Scharoun ( 1 893-1 972) was the director of the (still 
undivided) city planning commission, where he authored the first comprehen- 
sive reconstruction plan for all of Berlin, In 1946, he became the director of the 
urban design program at West Berlin's Technische Universitat, a position he 

held until his retirement in 1958. In addition, from 1955 to 1968. he was the 
president of the renowned Akademie der Kunste. Wils Ebert was a Berlin-based 
architect. The )ury awarded the first prize to the office of Friedrich Spengeiin. 
Fritz Eggeling. and Gerd Pempelfort. based in Hamburg and Hanover, The other 
second prize was given to Egon Hartmann (Mainz) and Waiter Nickert 
(Gelsenkirchen). Hauptstadt Berlin, 1990, 445-446. 

6 Erich Link, "Erne City ohne Zukunft' Glanz und Elend eines Wettbewerbs," Die 
Kuitur (March 1, 1959). "Der Begriff 'menschlicher Maftstab' ..trifft bei 
Scharoun/Ebert die 'Kennzeichnung der Substanz.' ' 

7 Sabina Lietzmann. "Der Ideenwettbewerb 'Hauptstadt Berlin,'" Neue Zurcher 
Zeitung (August 17, 1958). "Der Grundnfi der aiten Stadtanlage ist im iibrigen 
gewahrt. wie uberhaupt bei alien Entwurfen em Respekt vor den historisch 
gegebenen Fixpunkten der Berliner City zu beobachten ist." 

8 Hans Stephan, "Hauptstadt Berlin. Ein politischer Wettbewerb," Bauen und 
Wohnen 3 (1959); 105. "Als geistige Aufgabe des Wettbewebs war gefordert. 
daB die Wiederaufbauvorschlage in moderner, , Form das Bild einer Welt- und 
Hauptstadt Berlin wieder sichtbar zum Ausdruck bnngen sollten." Quoted by 
Hubert Hoffmann, 

9 Hans Scharoun, "Vom Stadt-Wesen und Architekt-Sein" [speech at the award 
ceremony for the Fritz-Schumacher-Prize in Hamburg, dated December 9, 
19541, Hans Scharoun: Bauten. Entwurfe, Texte. edited by Peter Pfannkuch, in 
the series Schnftenreihe der Akademie der Kunste Vol. 10, Berlin, 1993. 229. 
"Es bedarf der Kraft einer tragenden Idee, wie sie in diesem Zusammenhang m 
der mittelalterlichen Stadt noch lebendig war, um uns aus den Klammern etnes 
wesensfremd gewordenen Begriffs (das Konzept der vormodernen Stadt] zu 
befreien. [DenI seellsch-geistig fundierten Strukturbegriff.-.mussen wir zuruck- 
gewinnen, weil dann wieder em smnvolle Einbindung des Zivilisatorischen 
mbglich sein wird." 

10 Ibid., 231. "Zeitgenbssische Darstellungen mittelalterlicher Stadte zeigen 
gestaltbildhaft das Uberschaubare der Stadt und die ErfaUbarkeit ihrer 
Struktur — so wie sie sich dem Blick des Ankommenden erschliefSt. Die 
GrofSstadt gestattet keine Wiederholung solcher sihouettenhaften Wirkung. Ihr 
Wesen ist nur vom Kern her — vom Inneren her — optisch erschliefSbar, In Berlin 
ist dies durch den weiten Raum des Tiergartens geboten, den dem Tiergarten 
nahen Stadtteilen entsprechende Gestalt gegeben," 

1 1 Hans Scharoun, "Beschreibung des Wettbewerbsentwurfs fur Hauptstadt 
Berlin" [description of the competition entry for "Hauptstadt Berlin," dated Sept 
9, 19581, in Scharoun Nachlass, archive of the Berlin Akademie der Kunste 
Berlin, Nachlass n. 212. "WesensgemafSe Losung" [i.e. dem Wesen der Stadt 

12 Hans Scharoun, 1954, 232. "Wir meinen, das uns zur Zeit Erreichbare ist 
die Organform des Bauwerkes, der Stadt und der Gesellschaft... Unsere 
Aufgabe also ist das Gestaltanliegen, das Angehen des 'Geheimnisses der 
Gestalt,' Dieses Gestaltanliegen ist eine Sache des Geistes — Geist geschieht, 
Geist ist Ereignis." 

1 3 Fritz Schumacher, Der Geist der Baukunst (Berlin: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 

1938), 206. 

14 Hans Scharoun, 1 954, 229. ".,.sich durch das Malerische der romantischen. 


mittelalterlichen Stadt in ihrer fur uns wesenhaften und wichtigen Struktur (detail). The small building with four towers in the middle is the Reichstag, 

ablenken zu lassen." which the participants were required to preserve according to the competition 

guidelines. The government center is to the left of the Reichstag. In the upper 

ILLUSTRATIONS right corner stands Museum Island with the Schlossplatz, next to the octagonal 

Fig, 1: Hauptstadt Berlin. Internationaler stadtebaulicher Ideenwettbewerb Leipziger Platz. In the lower right corner is the detail of a shopping center and 

1957/58. 1990, 81. Scharoun and Ebert's proposal for the Hauptstadt Berlin the enormous subterranean parking structure. Picture taken from Berlinische 

competition. Galerie, ed.. Hauptstadt Berlin. Internationaler stadtebaulicher Ideenwettbewerb 

Fig. 2: Scharoun and Ebert's proposal for the Hauptstadt Berlin competition 1957.58. Berlin, 1990, 79. 

URBAN' 89 

90 /CHA 


This project is In Urubo, a rural village twenty minutes by 
car from Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The village lacks a viable econ- 
omy; because the men work in remote cities for weeks at a 
time, the women have a dominant presence In the village. 
The people of Urubo live predominantly In traditional mud 
huts and do not have a public meeting space for communal 
activities. Consequently, the project evolved Into a commu- 
nity center designed specifically for women and children — 
an open structure able to accommodate 1 50 people. It Is 
intended for use as a church, but also functions as a kinder- 
garten and a market place. 

The project took the form of a collaboration between skilled 
workers from the community and voluntary workers organ- 
ized by the NGOs which financed the project. It was over- 
seen by LIGHT, a non-governmental, non-profit organization 
dedicated to creating small-scale civic architecture for eco- 
nomically diverse and self-supporting, yet developing com- 

The design concept is based on the verse from 2 
Corinthians 3:16: "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where 
the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." This idea is best 
expressed in the open, uncluttered, and circular plan. The 
open plan allows for people to sit on individual stools and 
move about as they wish, unlike the fixed pews found In 
conventional church design. 

CHA/ 91 

The design of the church also maximized natural energy 
resources. In Urubo, the connections to water and electric- 
ity sources are relatively straightforward. The services and 
storage for the church are contained in a pre-existing adja- 
cent building to ease maintenance and to manage insects. 
Thus, the church is fully open, allowing natural light and 
wind to fill the room. 

92 /'CHA 

CHA/ 93 


ISRAEL; Fig. 1 : Reprinted from Sensation: Young British Artists from 
the Saatchi Collection (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1 998), 1 33; 
Figs, 2 & 3; Reprinted from Lorenza Trucchi, Francis Bacon, 
Translated by Jofin Sfiepley (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 
1975), plates 70 and 26. 

ASHER: Alt images are by the author of the article. 

PICCIOTTO: Image courtesy of Wijrzburg Universitatis Bibliothek. 

JONES; All images courtesy of the Estate of Robert 
Smithson/Licensed by VAGA, New York. 

DOMEYKO; All images are by the author of the article. 

APARICIO GUISADO; All images are by the author of the article. 

JAR20MBEK; All images reprinted from The Splendor of Dresden: 
Five Centuries of Art Collecting (New York; IVIetropolitan Museum of 
Art, 19781. 

ANDERSON; All photos are by the author of the article; Fig. 2: 
Reprinted from Gonzalo Borras Gualis, El Islam de Cordoba at 
Mudejar (IVIadrid: Silex, c1990); Fig. 5: Reprinted from Sheiia Blair 
and Jonathan Bloom, The Art & Architecture of Islam 1250-1800 
(New Haven; Yale University Press, 1994). 

RABBAT; All images are by the author of the article. 

HADIMIOGLU; All images are by the author of the article. 

AKKACH; Fig. 1: Reprinted from J. 8. Harley and David Woodward 
(eds.). The History of Cartography (Chicago; University of Chicago 
Press, 1987), vol. 2, plate 3; Figs. 2 & 3; Reprinted from The 
Discovery of the World: Maps of the Earth and the Cosmos, /[/laps 
from the David M. Steward Collection (IVIontreal; David M, Steward 
Museum, 1985), 80-81; Fig. 4; Reprinted from Harley and 
Woodward, vol. 2, plate 1 1. 

ELKINS; The image is printed courtesy of the artist, Janet McKenzie. 

URBAN; All images courtesy of the Estate of Hans Scharoun. 

CHA; All photos are by Daniel Lama. 


The following unintentional errors were made in Talinn Grigor, 
"Use/Mis-Use of Pahlavi Public Monuments and their Iranian 
Reclaim," Thresholds 24 (Spring 2002): 46-53. 

Page 48, Paragraph 2: "The tomb has panels narrating the story of 
the Shah..." should read, "The tomb has panels narrating the story 
of the 'Shahnameh.' The 'Shahnameh' or the 'Book of Kings' is 
Ferdowsi's major work. It tells the story of the lives of various myth- 
ical and historic Persian kings. Images from the 'Shahnameh' were 
carved on the walls leading to the tomb of Ferdowsi." 

Page 50, Paragraph 1: "...the space around the tomb complex was 
named Freedom Square," should read "...the space around the tomb 
complex was renamed Freedom Square, or The Shahyad Square, 
after the Revolution. It is now a museum." 



SAMER AKKACH is Senior Lecturer at the School of Architecture, 
Landscape Architecture, and Urban Design at The University of 
Adelaide, and is Founding Director of the Centre for Asian and 
Middle Eastern Architecture. He is currently a visiting scholar at MIT. 

LUCIA ALLAIS received her M.Arch. from the Harvard Graduate 
School of Design and a B.S. m Civil Engineering from Princeton 
University. Currently, she is a Ph.D. student of History, Theory, and 
Criticism in the Department of Architecture at MIT. 

GLAIRE ANDERSON is a Ph.D. student of History, Theory, and 
Criticism in the Department of Architecture at MIT. She received her 
M.A. in Art History from the University of Virginia. Her work focus- 
es on Islamic architecture in Spain. 

Arquitectura de Madrid. He was recipient of the Rome Prize in 
Architecture and he represented Spain in the Biennale di Venezia 
2000. Recently, he was Visiting Scholar at Columbia University. 

FREDERICK ASHER is Professor of Art History at the University of 
Minnesota. He recently completed two terms as President of the 
American Institute of Indian Studies and chairs the Institute's board. 
His research includes sculpture in Eastern India and contemporary 
artists working in traditional modes. His most recent work. Art of 
India, was published by Encyclopaedia Bntannica in December 2002. 

ZEYNEP CELIK is currently a Ph.D. student in the History, Theory, 
and Criticism section in the Department of Architecture at MIT. She 
received her M.Arch. from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. 

JAMES ELKINS is Professor of Visual and Critical studies in the 
Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of 
the Art Institute of Chicago. His recent books include Pictures and 
Tears: A History of People Who hiave Cried in Front of Paintings and 
Pictures of the Body: Pain and Metamorphosis. 

CAGLA HADIMIOGLU received her B.Arch. from the Cooper Union 
in 1993, her M.Arch. from Princeton University in 2000, and recent- 
ly completed her S.M.Arch.S. at MIT. 

MARK JARZOMBEK is Associate Professor of History, Theory, and 
Criticism in the Department of Architecture at MIT. He has written 
on a variety of subjects from the Renaissance to the modern. 

CAROLINE JONES is Associate Professor of contemporary art and 
theory in the Department of Architecture at MIT. Author of the prize- 
winning Machine in the Studio (Chicago 1996/98), she is currently 
completing Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg's Modernism and 
the Bureaucratization of the Senses. 

DANIEL BERTRAND MONK is Associate Professor at the State 
University of New York, Stony Brook, where he co-directs the grad- 
uate certificate program in Philosophy and Art and is a member of 
the Middle East Studies faculty. He was recipient of the SSRC's 
MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. He is 
presently working on a book entitled The Politics of Retrospection: 
Framing Middle East History in the Aftermath of the June 1967 
Arab-Israeli War. 

MICHAEL OSMAN is currently a Ph.D. student of History, Theory, 
and Criticism in the Department of Architecture at MIT. He received 
his M.Arch. from the Yale School of Architecture in 2001 and spent 
the following year on a Fulbright Fellowship in Tel Aviv. 

JAE CHA IS the founder of LIGHT. She received her M.Arch. from 
Yale University and her B.A. from Wellesley College. She was a 
Rotary Foundation Japan Scholar between 1993-95. 

JOANNA PICCIOTTO is Assistant Professor of English at Princeton 
University. She is working on a book entitled The Work That 
Remains: Labors of Innocence in Early Modern England. 

JONATHAN COONEY is a Ph.D. student in the Division of Religious 
and Theological Studies at Boston University. He holds an M.A. from 
Southwest Missouri State University and the M.Div. from United 
Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. He is currently the pastor of 
Bryantville United Methodist Church in Pembroke, MA. 

NASSER RABBAT, a member of the History, Theory, and Criticism 
section, IS the Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Architecture at MIT. 
He teaches courses on Islamic architecture, medieval urban history 
and historiography, and post-colonial criticism and its ramifications 
for the study of architectural history. 

FERNANDO DOMEYKO has taught at the University of Chile and the 
Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, Currently, he teaches design at 
the MIT. His work has been exhibited in Chile, Spain, France, 
Belgium, and in the US, most recently at MIT and Columbia 

FLORIAN URBAN is a Ph.D. student of History, Theory, and 
Criticism in the Department of Architecture at MIT. He recieved is 
M.A. in Urban Planning from UCLA. 



The dominant rhetorical stance of modern science, 
environmental discourse, and writing about nature is 
fundamentally positivistic and representational. The 
inherent ambiguity in defining nature is often used as 
a crutch for vaguely constructed arguments in the 
service of environmentalist or aesthetic ends. 
Alternatively, we find precise usage in a post- 
Enlightenment understanding via a scientific method 
that, by definition, moves systematically towards lin- 
ear acquisition of i<nowledge. Either mode of dis- 
course avoids an interrogation of the ambiguity itself 
and leads inexorably to an unexamined distinction 
between culture and nature. 

I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute 
freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a 
freedom and culture merely civil --to regard 
man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of 
Nature, rather than a member of society. 

Henry David Thoreau 

It is suggested that the production of modern 
cities has altered the relationship between 
nature and society in a series of material and 
symbolic dimensions. It is only by radically re- 
working the relationship between nature and 
culture that we can produce more progressive 
forms of urban society. 

-Concrete and Clay: 

Reworking Nature in New Yoric City 

Matthew Gandy 

Thoreau's conception of wildness, a form of extreme 
self-consciousness, reveals a method for reading, 
writing, and understanding nature. This method for 
accessing nature's ambiguity, exemplified in the 
essay "Walking," is less a product of romanticism and 
more in concordance with the equally ambiguous con- 
cepts of the rhizome, smooth space, and nomadism 
proposed by Gilies Deluze and Felix Guattari. In both 
cases, misappropriation by scholars, critics, and com- 
mentators precludes an examination of ambiguity 
which may provide a more expansive understanding 
of nature. 

is it possible, then, that nature can be understood not 
in the surveying out of space and laying of lines (or 
the organization of knowledge), but rather in the 
attentiveness to subtle changes and the acquisition of 
new, non-linear knowledge? 

Is a scientific approach towards nature limited by a 
defined space concerned only with what is already 

How can we construct a conception "ofTirban nature 
responsive to ambiguity and how can we incorporate 
such a nature into our built and cultural environ- 

Thresholds invites submissions, including but not lim- 
ited to scholarly works, from all fields. This issue 
encourages a forum on nature to be approached topi- 
cally, not in an attempt to define or explain, but rather 
to propose philosophies and interpretations of the 
relationship between culture and nature through its 
inherent ambiguity. 

Submissions are due 17 March 2003 

Submission Policy 

Thresholds attempts to print only original material. 
Manuscripts for review should be no more than 2,500 words. 
Text must be formatted in accordance with The Chicago 
Manual of Style. Spelling should follow American convention 
and quotations must be translated into English. All submis- 
sions must be submitted electronically, on a CD or disk, 
accompanied by hard copies of text and images. Text should 
be saved as Microsoft Word or RTF format, while any accom- 
panying images should be sent as TIFF files with a resolution 
of at least 300 dpi at 8" x 9" print size. Figures should be 
numbered clearly in the text. Image captions and credits must 
be included with submissions. It is the responsibility of the 
author to secure permissions for image use and pay any repro- 
duction fees. A brief author bio must accompany the text. 

We welcome responses to current Thresholds articles. 
Responses should be no more than 300 words and should 
arrive by the deadline of the following issue. Submissions by 
e-mail are not permitted without the permission of the editor. 


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